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A compilation of first-hand COVID-19 experiences from Southcoast Health providers.

Across our community, providers on the #Southcoastfrontlines have been working day and night to contain the spread of COVID-19. With southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island experiencing lower vaccination rates and high infection and hospitalization rates, physicians, nurses and other health professionals have had their hands full – with little rest.

These are their stories.

A message from Jennifer Lussier PA-C, Urgent Care Centers at Southcoast Health, on how to arm yourself and your loved ones against COVID-19:

During the first year of the pandemic, the Southcoast Health Dartmouth Urgent Care Center served as a COVID-19 respiratory clinic for our community. Working there, I saw COVID-19 patients that were not sick enough to be admitted to the hospital but had significant respiratory symptoms…continue reading.


A message from Brian Bonenfant, MPH, PA-C, from the Urgent Care Centers at Southcoast Health, on how to arm yourself and your loved ones against COVID-19:

Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic it was all too common for patients to arrive in the urgent care clinic desperately short of breath, what we quickly realized was one of the hallmarks of advanced COVID-19. It is a terrible experience to struggle to breathe. 

In those early months, there was no clear treatment regimen for COVID-19 and, sadly, many of those first patients with severe symptoms did not make it out of the hospital despite our best efforts. I will carry with me forever the fear and desperation I saw in their eyes… continue reading.


A message from Dr. Jorge Huaco, a Bariatric Surgeon at Southcoast Health, on how to arm yourself and your loved-ones against COVID-19:

For the last two years, a number of my bariatric patients have suffered severe symptoms, hospitalization and even death from COVID-19, and many have also experienced the rippling effects of a pause in the process of their life-changing, weight loss surgeries. Patients who prepared diligently and met stringent criteria saw the process halt several times. For these patients, the pandemic was a disruption to an already difficult road they had to endure. 

People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, like obesity, are at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19… continue reading.


A message from Dr. Julian Ponsetto, a Pediatrician at Southcoast Health, on how to arm yourself and your loved-ones against COVID-19: 

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched all of our lives. During the first surge of infections in April 2020, I was working as a pediatric resident in Boston. As cases climbed and hospitals struggled to accommodate the surge of patients, our pediatric intensive care unit (ICU) was forced to admit adult patients.

Witnessing first-hand the devastation this virus caused is something I will remember for the rest of my life. However, I will also remember my colleagues’ courage and hard work, they worked tirelessly to make the best of a bad situation in the face of a new and dangerous virus…continue reading.


A message from Dr. Monica DaSilva, Breast Surgical Oncologist at Southcoast Health Breast Center:

When the pandemic first emerged regionally in March of 2020, many of us were unsure what to expect. We thought about our families and our patients. 

At the Southcoast Health Breast Center, we quickly formalized plans of action. We prioritized keeping our patients safe and away from the risk of contracting COVID-19. Many of the Breast Center patients are immunocompromised, and their health and wellbeing are our utmost concern. Although challenging, we had to consider still the critical care needed by our oncology patients and how to provide that optimal care through safer means. We achieved this by increasing our visitor restrictions and COVID-19 screenings… continue reading.


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… continue reading


A message from Dr. Zoe Vazquez, Southcoast Physicians Group Pulmonary Medicine, Fall River, on how to arm yourself against COVID-19:

In March of 2020, I had the worst experience of my career: watching my patient die alone while his family called in on an iPad because they weren’t allowed in the hospital because of protections to limit the spread of COVID-19. Sadly, since then, that tragic situation has happened too many times that I’m almost used to it.

In the beginning, the pandemic was heartbreaking because so many people were dying of a disease that had no treatment. Now, the pandemic is tragic because so many people are dying from a preventable disease. It is very painful to bear witness to recent deaths and severe illness when the vaccines are powerful in preventing against this… continue reading


A message from Chelsea Manzone, Nurse Practitioner at Southcoast Health Urgent Care, Fairhaven, on how to arm yourself against COVID-19:

Three weeks after returning from maternity leave as a first-time mother, I found myself on the frontlines of a global pandemic. The world shut down, but the doors to our urgent care center remained open. It was a terrifying time. We had to manage with minimal PPE and a rampant, unknown virus. My husband, four-month-old daughter, and I secluded ourselves as much as we could. Our child was our highest priority. We worried about me bringing the virus home, and if I would be the one to infect us, our parents, and our families.

When the vaccine was released, I was hesitant. Like many others, I had concerns – not only regarding the potential side effects, both short and long term, but also, I was a breastfeeding mother. I cautiously questioned, could this vaccine affect my baby… continue reading


A message from Dr. Robert McGowen, Southcoast Physicians Group Family Medicine, Wareham, on how to arm yourself against COVID-19:

The low point for me was Friday, February 12, 2021. It was the middle of the second surge. So many of my patients tested positive for COVID-19. Later, I received news that three of the patients I cared for had passed away.

Thinking back, one of the most beneficial aspects available to us now, the vaccine, could have protected my patients who got severely ill and died. Though it was released on December 11, 2020, the vaccine was not immediately available to the public and it was too late for many of these patients and others who had already contracted COVID-19… continue reading


A message from Dr. Michael Barretti, Southcoast Health Pulmonologist & Medical Director of Critical Care; former Marine Corps battalion surgeon:

As someone who has had a moderately severe COVID-19 infection and then later having the vaccine, I can say that the side effects I experienced from the vaccine paled in comparison to what I experienced during my illness with COVID-19.  The symptoms I experienced after my vaccine were limited to only about a day and a half, and felt like a mild flu-like illness.

In stark contrast, the symptoms I had after contracting COVID-19 in May of 2020 lasted weeks, and evolved from an earache and chills to high fevers, nausea, crushing fatigue, and even delirium. I was hospitalized. My wife contracted COVID, too, and we were scared…continue reading


A message from Dr. Tina Charest, Southcoast Family Medicine, Dartmouth:

The day my husband, also a physician, was offered the vaccine, he went in to wait in line a half hour before the doors even opened. I have never felt relief like I did the moment he sent me his selfie of him getting the first dose. At least one of us was going to be OK. Two weeks later, I shed tears when I got mine. Getting vaccinated gave us hope again.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is more important than ever. The Delta variant, the most recent variant of COVID-19 causing our country’s current surge, is proving to be far more contagious…continue reading


A message from Dr. Carlos Correia, Southcoast Physicians Group Family Medicine, Fall River:

We have all been affected by this pandemic personally and professionally. As a doctor I have unfortunately seen some of my patients die from it. As a husband and father, I have been concerned for my family’s safety and have had to put off vacationing to my homeland for two years. Fortunately, with our state-of-the-art technology, we have been able to come up with vaccines that are safe and very effective in preventing severe disease and death from COVID.

Yes, if vaccinated, you can still contract the virus; the vaccine is not a force field, but it gets your body ready to fight it. I am happy to say that not only am I vaccinated (for more than 7 months now), but so is my wife, all my children, all my siblings and their spouses, and all their children and grandchildren who are over 12 years old. It is safe, or I would not have highly recommended it – without hesitation – to my family members… continue reading


A message from Dr. Shobhita Sundar, Southcoast Physicians Group Internal Medicine, Fall River:

As a Southcoast Health physician, I was so happy when earlier this year we started vaccinating the public full force. The next few months, I saw a drop in the number of positive cases to the point where there were very few during April and May. This was very heartening. Life almost returned back to a new normal. In the last few weeks, though, I am seeing COVID-19 infections rise again. This is a disturbing trend.

I still remember Monday, March 23, 2020 – the day that sadly, I had to go home. My patient visits for the afternoon were cancelled, and my medical office shut down. Using telemedicine and doing phone consults, we kept going. We’ve come so far since the worst of the pandemic. We’ve been able to begin opening our community back up – with life starting to return to normal for those who are vaccinated. Sadly though, with the new Delta variant spreading… continue reading

Be Informed and Arm Yourself

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.