Local health care workers profiled in ‘Front-Line Voices’ series


At the emergency Room of Sharp Grossmont Hospital on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020 in La Mesa, CA., nurses stand to assist doctors and nurses inside the negative pressure room. Inside the negative pressure room is a patient with with respiratory difficulty and is COVID positive. (Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

SAN DIEGO — With COVID-19 spreading through San Diego County at a record rate, local health care workers are under mounting strain.

Reporter Paul Sisson and videographer Nelvin Cepeda of the San Diego Union-Tribune interviewed more than a dozen local front-line health care workers about their experiences during the pandemic. You can watch the interviews below.

Yanai Melgarejo, a critical care nurse at Sharp Memorial Hospital, says it takes many of her patients a long time to recover and many don’t make it.
Dr. Tom Lawrie, chief medical officer at Sharp Memorial Hospital, said the biggest wish for those on the front lines is respect.
Reid Corley, a pediatric intensive care nurse at Rady Children’s Hospital, said kids have not been immune to the negative effects of COVID-19.
Keri Feather started screening patients at Rady Children’s Hospital after her hours were reduced as an urgent care nurse. She lost her brother to the disease in November.
Dennel Wildey, a registered nurse at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, says it is difficult to witness what COVID-19 has done to families.
Deene Mollon, director of progressive care at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, explains how hospitals have been able to meet the roller coaster demand of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leah Karnya, a registered nurse at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, usually works with orthopedic patients, but has been repeatedly pulled into COVID-19 care as the surge has filled intensive care and other beds.
Paul Larimore, emergency director at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, says patients are testing positive for coronavirus infection more frequently than they were just one month ago and are coming in sicker.
Dr. Jane Burns, a worldwide expert in Kawasaki disease, has found herself treating multisymptom inflammatory syndrome, a rare complication of coronavirus infection, at Rady Children’s Hospital.
Respiratory therapist Annette Castaneda says she has witnessed a range of reactions to COVID-19 as the number of positive tests for coronavirus infection has increased in recent weeks.
Rebecca Book, an emergency room nurse at Sharp Memorial Hospital, says that while the health care community is more prepared than it was in the spring, the public still needs to pull together to protect the most vulnerable.
Dr. Zachary Shinar, chief of emergency medicine at Sharp Memorial Hospital, said the Christmas present this year was the vaccine.
Emily Cooper, an EMT and screener at Rady Children’s Hospital, said she relies on the public’s honesty as she tries to determine who may be infected.
As an environmental services worker, Monica Ortiz, who recently began working at Rady Children’s Hospital, said cleaning rooms occupied by COVID-19 patients has made her more aware of the risks many take in the community.
Marguerite Paradis, director of emergency services and critical care at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, says COVID-19 has required the health care community to find new levels of flexibility.
Dr. Denise Malicki oversees all coronavirus testing at Rady Childrens Hospital. The neuropathologist said the virus has forced her team to work round the clock to deliver results as quickly as possible.
Angie Wong, a critical care pharmacist, said many of the medications used in intensive care for COVID-19 patients prolong recovery.
Megan Weske, a critical care nurse at Sharp Memorial Hospital, says front-line workers need the public’s help to have a fighting chance of keeping up with the number of COVID-19 patients filling hospital beds.

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