St. Luke’s Anderson Campus discharged its 100th COVID-19 patient Wednesday. The Anderson Campus in Bethlehem Township is one of the health network’s 11 hospitals.
Curtis Ding of Forks Township–the 100th patient–spent 10 days at the Anderson Campus, St. Luke’s University Health Network said in a news release. He started his journey on the medical/surgical unit, and after a few days was transferred to the ICU.
Ding said he remembers the fear of knowing he was going into the ICU, and when it was clear that he might have to be intubated and placed on a ventilator, calling his parents to say goodbye. He knew there was a chance he would never see them again. He was not able to call his 16-year-old son to say goodbye, however, because the idea of not seeing him again was too overwhelming. At that time, Ding told his care team he would do anything to avoid being intubated. The members of his team encouraged him to do special breathing exercises and spend time in the prone position to help his breathing improve.
Ding said he was scared but–motivated by a desire to live and see his family–decided to try. Despite his discomfort, he pushed himself, and the unique protocols St. Luke’s has developed since the start of the COVID-19 crisis proved successful. Ding ultimately left the ICU without being intubated and returned to the medical/surgical unit to recover.
“I am grateful for the care I received during my stay at St. Luke’s Andersen Campus, and I truly credit the staff for saving my life,” he said. “I specifically want to thank Rita Gencarelli, my final nurse… I wish I could’ve given her a hug as I was being discharged. Rita was a godsend to me.”
“All staff were excellent and were all truly instrumental in helping me heal to where I could be released and complete my recovery at home,” he added. “I will forever be grateful.”
Throughout his journey to wellness, Ding also shared regular updates publicly on his Facebook page, to help inform friends and followers about the dangers of COVID-19.
“Before I got sick, I was following the social distancing directives. Washing my hands. Staying away from others,” he wrote April 8, when he was still at risk of being intubated and placed on a ventilator. “Personally I don’t think six feet is enough, so everyone PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stay away from others. Be safe. This is one of the scariest and most difficult thing I’ve dealt with in my life and my struggle is far from over right now. I have a long road ahead to recovery.”
In addition to his warning about the seriousness of COVID-19, Ding also used Facebook to encourage those who are quarantined to use the time to reconnect with family members and friends, and also to stop and smell the proverbial roses in life.
“Take a look at the world around us. Take it in. Enjoy it. Don’t miss it,” he urged. “Stop and enjoy that rainbow. Sit on a bench and just relish in the sights and sounds. Throw flower petals in a creek and make a wish. Enjoy every special moment you can with those you love.”
Across the health network, St. Luke’s said it has now discharged about 450 COVID-19 patients who are either recovered or on the road to recovery.
Among the discharged patients are many who were on ventilators. Network-wide, St. Luke’s said it has extubated about 50 patients thus far.
“These remarkable figures reflect the incredible, lifesaving care that our doctors, nurses and other caregivers are providing our community, and the incredible innovations St. Luke’s has implemented to meet the unique challenges presented by COVID-19,” said infectious disease specialist Jeffrey Jahre, MD, St. Luke’s Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs.
Deborah Stahlnecker, DO, of St. Luke’s Pulmonary and Critical Care Associates and Medical Director of the Anderson Campus ICU said her team has been working tirelessly to provide the best care possible for our COVID-19 patients, and it’s paying off.
“We developed a comprehensive medication protocol based on the best evidence available that includes hydroxychloroquine, high dose vitamin C, zinc, atorvastatin and steroids,” she said. “We also utilize non-invasive techniques such as high-flow nasal cannula and self-proning maneuvers, where patients spends up to 12 hours a day lying on their stomachs to help distribute oxygen more effectively in the lungs. Many of these measures were used to help Mr. Ding and others recover from COVID-19 across the St. Luke’s Network.”
Among St. Luke’s other innovations for treating COVID-19 patients is its use of the Masimo SafetyNet. Masimo SafetyNet uses a tetherless, single-patient-use sensor to monitor patients’ vital signs and provide doctors with valuable clinical data that helps to inform difficult treatment decisions such as when to use a ventilator.
“This technology is incredibly helpful in light of the crush of demand on our hospitals during this COVID-19 pandemic,” said Aldo Carmona, MD, St. Lukeʼs Senior Vice President of Clinical Innovation and Chairman of the Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care.