A Pensacola physician is heading up north to help care for coronavirus patients.
“I saw an ad from Johns Hopkins asking for people. I applied (and) they contacted me within 24 hours,” said Dr. Alexys Hillman from Pensacola Osteopaths, who has traveled to Baltimore to help COVID-19 patients. She said she was inspired to help after watching New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily coronavirus updates on TV.
“Every day he’s doing his conferences and his daily briefings and he was getting to the point (where he was) begging for health care people to come up and help.”
Before getting the call from Johns Hopkins, Dr. Hillman had also applied to help in New York, New Jersey and Michigan. Beginning this week, she is assigned to work with COVID-19 patients at the temporary field hospital set up at the Baltimore Convention Center.
“So all the patients that are going to be there and going to be transfers from hospitals, so essentially hospital overflow. It’s going to be people who are stable enough to be discharged from the hospital, they don’t need that higher level of care anymore, but they can’t yet go home.”
Since the patients at the field hospital were transferred there from the hospital, Dr. Hillman believes her job will be to make sure everyone’s recovery is going smoothly.
“It seems like (I’ll be doing) observation, making sure that no one’s relapsing. We’re seeing from other countries that patients are popping positive for COVID again and having recurrence of symptoms. I was actually just reading an article today from our cardiology group who have found that COVID-19 has the potential to cause long-term damage to the heart muscle. So, now I know for myself (that) I also have to keep an eye out for that. Just making sure that everyone’s stable. They’re not having that second wave of symptoms where they might need a vent or to go back to a higher level of care.”
Thursday, April 9, was the last day Dr. Hillman saw patients at her practice in Pensacola. She says that while her family is apprehensive about her safety, they understand why she feels the need to help and completely support her decision. And her family members are not the only ones apprehensive.
“You know, I am scared. I am nervous," said Hillman. "I’ve been on radio chatter with other doctors (who) are also scared and nervous. They’re worried about the lack of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). And what drive me nuts as a professional is hearing politicians and government and (even) religious leaders saying to ignore that stay-at-home rules, and (saying) it’s not a big deal and let’s reopen the beaches. I feel so undermined as a physician. So you don’t have to necessarily thank us health care workers. We appreciate it, but we would appreciate it more if you actually stay home.”
As for when she’ll be coming home, Dr. Hillman is scheduled to be in Baltimore for a month, but that could change depending on when Maryland reaches its peak case load.
“We’ll see what the numbers (look like) when I'm getting to that three- or four-week mark, whether I need to stay longer. The other thing is Florida already has some quarantine rules on people traveling from certain areas. So I’m going to have to see in a month, if they expand that, if I’m going to have to go into mandatory quarantine upon my return or not.”
We hope to keep you updated on Dr. Hillman during her stay in Baltimore.