Arm Yourself: Kathy’s COVID-19 Story
A message from Kathy Moraes, RN, Director of Medical Oncology at Southcoast Health Cancer Center, Fairhaven, on how to arm yourself against COVID-19.
COVID-19 has created a major shift in how we care for our cancer population. Although we are not Emergency Nurses or Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Nurses, we are frontline staff for our oncology patients.
In our practice, it is common for patients starting chemotherapy and radiation to have a family member accompany them to their treatments and provider appointments. Unfortunately, as COVID-19 hit, visitors were restricted in every area of the cancer center, and it was difficult to witness the patients awaiting treatment by themselves. Our staff stepped up to provide both medical care and emotional support, as well.
At the start of the pandemic, if a patient tested positive for COVID-19, it was challenging to determine when best to bring them back into the center. After all, with an interruption in their cancer treatment, their routine and necessary care was cut off. Our oncology patients always present a variety of symptoms, from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and even taste changes. The pandemic made caring for our patients ten times more complex with testing and confirming various symptom causes regularly.
Southcoast Health Cancer Center orchestrated a vaccination clinic for their patients
Then came vaccines. Southcoast Health Cancer Center orchestrated a vaccination program strictly for our patients because we knew how sensitive their personal situations were in terms of contracting COVID-19 from the general population and their immunocompromised state. We felt that because our immunocompromised patients came to the center with such frequency, they deserved to receive their vaccines from their oncology care team in a place that was familiar to them.
On a more general note, we were all so hopeful when the vaccine roll-out began, but by June of 2021, when less than 50% of the regional population had been fully vaccinated, I felt so deflated. It was and still is essential that the general public get vaccinated to protect immunocompromised patients and those around them. As healthcare professionals rooted in science, we know that the only way to reduce the spread of a virus is by achieving herd immunity.
I strongly feel that when it comes to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, it is NOT only a personal decision. It is a decision that affects all of us in the general population, especially immunocompromised patients, like our oncology patients. The virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets when people cough, sneeze, or talk, actions we exchange every day. By getting vaccinated, you reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19, and therefore reduce the risk of those around you.
Our only hope is in the vaccine and only when we the vast population makes the decision to get vaccinated.
We are at a crucial moment in human history, and our actions today will help shape the future for so many. Arm yourself with the facts to make an informed decision.
Visit www.southcoast.org/covid-19-vaccination to find upcoming vaccination opportunities at Southcoast Health, and please speak to your medical provider if you have questions or concerns. You can also find other places to get vaccinated at www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-vaccination-locations.