Shawn Warner is a registered nurse in an 18-bed ICU step-down unit at Buffalo General Hospital. The south Florida native, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a pre-med focus in 2017 at Niagara University before returning to complete the accelerated nursing program in 2019, says that Buffalo’s reputation as the “City of Good Neighbors” is well-deserved.
“Since the start of COVID-19, that saying is 1,000% true,” he said. “The support that the front-line workers are receiving from local stores and restaurants, as well as (from) the professional sports teams, has been amazing and can't be found anywhere else.”
When the coronavirus first arrived in Western New York, Warner said that Buffalo General Hospital was proactive in protecting its staff and patients, requiring all employees to wear a surgical mask while in the hospital; making more than a million masks, gloves, and gowns available (throughout the Kaleida healthcare system); and halting visitation unless patients were put on comfort or end-of-life care. The hospital also developed a COVID-19 dashboard that shows how many positive, suspected, and discharged patients there are in the Kaleida system. While the employees were initially afraid of the unknown in regard to the coronavirus, they continued to give their patients the best care possible, he said.
Warner’s unit, which takes patients from all the ICUs in the hospital, does not accept COVID-19 patients so that it remains “clean.” So, when one of his patients started exhibiting the symptoms of COVID-19, he was understandably afraid. He had been in and out of the patient’s room numerous times without PPE before the onset of the symptoms, and then had to perform the test to determine whether or not the patient had the virus.
“My thoughts began to go in many directions,” Warner said. “What if I have it now, and what if I give it to someone else?”
Fortunately, the results were negative. But the experience made Warner, who already was taking precautions, to become even more vigilant.
“I have a roommate and significant other that I definitely do not want to get sick because of my carelessness,” he said. “Whenever I work, I come home immediately, go to my bedroom and take all my work stuff off, and then wash off. Testing that patient and not knowing for two to five days was nerve-racking and made me a bit paranoid. It also made me more mindful of what I was doing, what I was touching, and where I was touching.”
Warner says he is still worried about the fact there is no cure for COVID-19 and that there are still so many unanswered questions--how long will the pandemic last, will there be another wave in the fall, will a vaccine or cure be developed, do people who contract the virus have immunity? But he keeps his spirits up by playing with his dog and practicing a new hobby, yoga. And his adopted home has made working on the front lines a little easier.
“Deciding to stay in Buffalo, away from my family in Florida, was a hard choice to make,” he said, “but with the amazing support of the community, it has eased my thoughts on making this decision to stay.”