Over the next month, The Rebellion will be proudly highlighting one Walpole hero each week. The Rebellion will focus on doctors, nurses, first responders and others who are helping the sick and the healthy get through this crisis. This week, The Rebellion honors Lori Whelan, Brigham and Women’s nurse and mother of Walpole High School students Molly Whelan and Caroline Whelan.
Whelan’s unit at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston deals with many patients who are experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms and are in the process of being tested for the virus. All necessary precautions, including the wearing of a face shield, N-95 mask, gown and gloves are taken while awaiting the test results. Patients that are tested positive for COVID-19 are transferred to a different special unit at the hospital to contain the spread of the virus.
Whelan reports that the initial reaction to coronavirus from nurses and doctors was confusion and fear.
“The anxiety level at the hospital was extremely high. It felt like we were on a plane, and they were trying to figure out how to put the wings on mid-flight,” Whelan said.
After some widespread policies were put in place at BWH, things got better. Many nurses have been redeployed from quieter areas of the hospital to the COVID-19 unit and most, including Whelan, worked overtime during the surge and were prepared to work around the clock for days on end should it be necessary. Whelan is grateful that it never got to that level.
“I am very proud of how supportive the nurses are of one another and that everyone recognized that they have a job to do,” Whelan said.
Whelan finds that most of her patients are scared and lonely, as the hospital has had a no visitor policy since the end of March. Some of Whelan’s sicker patients have been away from their loved ones for several weeks. To relieve her patients’ stress, Whelan tries to spend any extra time on her shift reassuring them or just keeping them company.
“Sometimes my face is the only one [my patient] sees in twelve hours,” Whelan said.
Whelan has a multi-stepped routine to protect her family from any germs she may bring home from the hospital, including changing her clothes at the hospital and then again in her garage before immediately heading to the shower. Her best advice to others to protect themselves from the virus is to stay home.
Whelan misses everyday life and says that her first trip will be to her hair stylist once quarantine is over. She wants the pandemic to end and for life to return to normal. Until that day, the community can be comforted that Whelan and her colleagues are on the front lines bringing care, compassion and their healing touch to all that come through the hospital doors. Thank you Nurse Whelan!