Coronavirus Tips From an Emergency Physician

Braden Hexom - Open GraphBraden Hexom, MD, is an emergency physician at Rush University Medical Center, which is preparing for a sharp increase in patients with COVID-19. He shared the following tips about the coronavirus.

Here are my recommendations for those of you wondering what you should do about COVID-19. I won’t go over the obvious — just my thoughts from a week on the inside. Hopefully there’s something useful in here:

  1. None of you should want to come to get a coronavirus test. Simply standing in line puts you at risk. Especially if you are currently healthy and don’t need to be there. Getting a test shouldn’t change anything about how you prepare or act in the next few weeks.
  2. Don’t come to the ER unless you are HAVING AN EMERGENCY. That means you are having difficulty breathing or you can’t keep down any food or water. If you have a cough, sore throat, or feel crummy, you already know what to do. You don’t need an ER for that. Call your doctor. Better yet, call your mom.
  3. If you do have concerns or questions, do a video visit. Many large medical centers are doing these now. Your local public health office likely already has a hotline or process for fielding questions. Use them.
  4. Stop buying toilet paper, hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes in bulk. Someone else needs those, and it’s probably not you. If you have a sink and soap, you have all you need.
  5. Rethink your flu shot for next year. Chances are, if you have a cough, you may actually just have the flu, which is still widely present. You might have not had it altogether if you’d received your flu shot. And next year’s flu may be worse than this year’s coronavirus. We never know, that’s why we keep on working to make these better, every year. Whatever you are afraid of by not getting the flu shot is nothing compared to this.
  6. Have honest, open discussions with your children, family, older parents, etc. I’ve found that some of the best conversations I’ve had about the current pandemic have been with my kids. And we all need each other right now, especially when we’re asking everyone to shrink their community to the bare minimum. Make sure your kids are reassured. Check on your older relatives and make sure they have food.
  7. Buckle up for a longer period of uncertainty than you are used to. I don’t know what next week will look like. It might be better. It might be worse. It will be like trying to buy the right stock right now. Just relax, slow your life down, enjoy the moments you are having with your loved ones or simply at home. Read a good book.
  8. If you get seriously ill, we are here for you. But the only way I do my job at the top of my abilities is if you are truly sick. If I’m spending most of my day counseling you on why you don’t need a coronavirus test, then I’m not helping the ones who might be standing behind you in the screening line with an oxygen saturation of 79%.

Take care of each other. Take care of yourselves.

Rush’s Tower: Built for What We Hope We’ll Never Need

Screen Shot 2020-03-09 at 8.39.14 AMBy Anthony Perry, MD

At a time when people across Chicagoland are feeling anxiety about the coronavirus spread, we find ourselves reflecting on work to design a hospital that would stand ready to support Chicago in times of great need. It was 15 years ago that we first crafted the strategies that led to the opening of the iconic hospital building at Ashland and the Eisenhower in 2012.

People often reflect on the interesting design of the building. But they don’t often get to see much of the functionality that we designed into it. One of the many aspects of the design is the preparedness for pandemic scenarios that might lead to large surges in potentially infected patients and provide an environment that protects both patients and the staff working in the building.

In the emergency department, the ambulance drop-off bays can convert into a large-scale decontamination zone, and the emergency room itself was built to expand its bed capacity by more than two and a half times its normal capacity.

Surge isolation

Computerized controls allow physicians and nurses to alter the airflow in the emergency room to create special surge isolation capacity if a serious contagion was identified. And in the Brennan Pavilion, columns can turn into patient care locations in the case of a true emergency scenario.

The sophisticated air-handling control continues in the hospital’s bed tower. In fact, if you look at the butterfly-shaped top half of that building, a quarter of that building at a time can be converted from the normal, everyday air handling of typical hospital units to special, large-scale isolation capacity to again provide an environment that maximally protects both patients and staff.

It stands as an important component of preparedness for Chicagoans and one of those things that you build thinking (and hoping) that you may never need it. But in times like these, we’re glad to know it’s there.

Anthony Perry, MD, is vice president of ambulatory transformation at Rush University Medical Center.

First Black Child Born at Rush Leaves Lasting Legacy

Botanical Gardens
By Traci Daniels

When I began my tenure at Rush last year, I was proud to walk the halls of one of the finest health care institutions in the land. My mother worked in health care administration, and the care that she received prior to her death made me inspired to make the switch to this field.

I recall her writing down for me her life facts on a piece of paper before she passed. She was always thinking of others and knew that I, as her only child, would be planning her services. She spoke of being the first black baby born at Rush on July 12, 1953 (then Presbyterian Hospital). She was the youngest child of the late Claude and Geneva F. Brown.

Life is truly full circle. Here I am, 67 years later, now working at that very same place she began life.

Since it’s Black History Month, I am reflecting on how my ancestors and older relatives probably could not have dreamed of the position I am in now. Because of the strides that they and my mother made, it is conceivable for me to now shine. When I saw a slideshow of all the black excellence and history made here at Rush, I mentally inserted a slide about my mom.

A staunch champion for education, my mother, Linda Levon Brown, attended Emil G. Hirsch High School and graduated in 1971. She won a full academic scholarship to the University of Illinois at Chicago for education.

‘Destined for greatness’

Following college, Mom began her career in her chosen field of health administration at the University of Chicago Billings Hospital and the Osteopathic Chicago Hospital.

She was married in 1977 to decorated Purple Heart war veteran Robert L. Daniels, and to this union, her only child, Traci Daniels (me), was born in 1980. Priding herself in her work, my mom was employed throughout her career at South Chicago Hospital, University of Illinois Medical School, St. Francis Hospital and finally Palos Community Hospital.

Even her name, Linda, is a wonderful tribute to black history, as she’s named after the plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court Brown vs. the Board of Education case. It was almost as though her parents knew she was destined for greatness.

I like to think that her birth here at Rush was representative of all of the births that were to come — all of the great stories that have literally been birthed in Rush’s hallowed halls. If she had not ventured into the world of health, she would have loved a career in Silicon Valley or as a pilot. In fact, she made sure to attend the Bessie Coleman memorial here in Chicago every year, which celebrates the first black woman to get a pilot’s license. Mom also loved music (Motown artists were her favorite) and thoroughly enjoyed attending “Motown the Musical” for her last birthday before she passed.

​​When I think about Rush’s tagline and motto, “Excellence is just the beginning,” I feel that is truly the legacy my mother left through Rush, and with me. As I continue to craft my own legacy, I will definitely carry on that tradition in her honor.

Janet Wolter, MD, 1926-2020

Janet WolterJanet Wolter, MD, former physician and professor of medicine at Rush University Medical Center, died on Feb. 4. A national leader in cancer care, Wolter was a beloved researcher, mentor and friend.

Her career at what now is Rush University Medical Center began in 1963 and spanned almost 50 years. During her time here, she collaborated with endocrinologists to find new ways to treat cancer with chemotherapy and hormone therapy. She was especially interested in the treatment of breast cancer and in 1985 co-founded the Midwest’s first comprehensive breast center, today known as the Coleman Foundation Comprehensive Breast Cancer Clinic​.​

Wolter was passionate about care teams and encouraged nursing staff to work alongside physicians before this model of care was widely practiced.

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Rush Resident Helps Save a Life at O’Hare

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Outside of her work as a third-year internal medicine resident at Rush University Medical Center, Erica Park, MD, loves to have “fun, random adventures.” Park recently had a particularly exciting adventure when she helped save a man’s life at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

On her way to interview for a gastroenterology fellowship, Park was searching for a place to charge her cellphone when she heard someone desperately call out for a doctor.

A man who had been experiencing chest pain earlier had become unresponsive while waiting with a friend at a gate for a flight. Park and two off-duty emergency medical technicians who were also waiting for flights went to work.

“I could not feel a carotid pulse, so we started compressions, and I asked for a defibrillator,” Park recalls. “We ended up doing three rounds of compressions and two shocks. Just as EMS arrived and began to do compressions, the gentleman regained consciousness, so they took him to the nearest hospital.”

Fresh from recently finishing her rotation in the cardiac ICU, Park said her training instantly kicked in.

“While we were resuscitating him, I just kept going through our BLS (Basic Life Support Training) and ACLS (Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support Training) steps we had learned while in residency,” she says. “It’s definitely different from a code in the hospital, since you don’t have all the supplies and medicine. I just kept telling myself to keep going with compressions and shocks, since that’s all we really had at the time.”

Helping people in need is nothing new for Park, who hails from Indiana. Inspired at a young age by her father, also a physician, she knew her calling would be in health care.

After the incident, Park went on her way, hoping for the best. Any hint of nervousness about her fellowship interview the next morning in California vanished with a phone call.

“I was really happy and relieved when I got the call the saying that he was doing OK in the hospital,” she says. “I was actually in my Lyft on the way to my interview when I received the call, so it was a good way start to my morning.”​

Let’s Talk About Pelvic Floor Disorders

Sammarco_AnneBy Anne Sammarco, MD, MPH

One of the best parts of my job as a urogynecologist is the moment when a patient realizes that there are treatment options available for her. I have spent years training and focusing my attention on the pelvic floor — and it’s sometimes easy to forget that these issues aren’t getting the publicity they deserve.

Although these issues are getting more attention in mainstream media outlets, like the New York Times, BBC News and Cosmopolitan magazine, we still have work to do to get the message out to women: While common, these are not conditions they need to suffer with silently.

Pelvic floor disorders include pelvic organ prolapse (where the bladder, bowel and uterus can fall downward out of the vagina), urinary incontinence, accidental bowel leakage (sometimes called fecal incontinence), and difficult or painful intercourse.

These issues can affect women of any age, but they become more common with age and after childbirth. Because these can be very personal or embarrassing issues, women don’t always feel comfortable speaking about them openly — even to their doctors. That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t have a major impact on women’s quality of life.

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Supporting Chicago Families With Newborns

family-connects-press-conference-1.jpgAngela Moss, assistant dean for faculty practice in the College of Nursing and nurse practitioner and Gina Lowell, director of community health for pediatrics and pediatrician, discuss Rush’s participation in the Family Connects Chicago program and how it supports our West Side community families.

Moss is one of the nurse leaders operationalizing Rush’s contributions to the Chicago Department of Public Health’s pilot rollout of Family Connects Chicago. Lowell was the co-chair of the city task force and was instrumental in bringing the service to CDPH.

Q: Please explain how the Family Connects Chicago program works?

Lowell: Family Connects Chicago is a service provided voluntarily to families with newborns in the city of Chicago. About three weeks after a baby is born, a community health or public health nurse engages with families in their homes to provide a holistic assessment of family well-being.

The nurse first meets with families after the birth of their baby while they recover on the Mother Baby Unit. Families are offered the service and a date for the nurse visit to their home is set.  The visit itself takes about two hours, during which the mother’s health, infant’s health, family well-being and material needs or supports are identified. The nurse then provides both on-the-spot assistance as well as connections to the resources and referrals to support each family’s unique set of needs.

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The Road Home to Healing

Sergio AlfaroRush is proud to support veterans of the U.S. military by providing both employment opportunities and the specialized care many vets need. One of them is Sergio Alfaro, an Army veteran and Epic technical trainer at Rush University Medical Center. In a powerful testimonial, Alfaro openly shares how a tour of duty forever changed his life and mental health and how Rush and other organizations help him cope with his new normal. 

As a veteran of the armed forces, I volunteered years of my life for this country, and the impact of it has left lasting marks that have carried on past a decade now.

It may not be difficult to grasp that even one year in Iraq serving as a medic for the Army has left me with experiences that I grapple with to this day. What is harder to understand is the devastation that can be left in the wake of battling with mental illness.

My family and I have lived​ with post-traumatic stress disorder for the past 15 years of my life, which has also resulted in a major depressive disorder for the past seven years. My existence has been put at risk not just at war, but now at home as I struggle to reintegrate myself into civilian life.

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