On the Front Lines of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Cheyenne Regional Medical Center Respiratory Therapist’s Firsthand Account

D’Andra Martinez has been with Cheyenne Regional Medical Center (CRMC) for more than five years. She started out working as an EMT (emergency technician) in the Emergency Department. She really liked the work and her colleagues there, she said, but “it was hard to get to know patients because we saw so many of them every day.”

D’Andra decided being a respiratory therapist (RT) would be a better fit so returned to school to get her RT degree. D’Andra was set to graduate last May, and then the pandemic hit.

“I was given an emergency license and was allowed to start working in March due to the need for respiratory therapists to treat patients with COVID-19,” she said.

D’Andra and her RT colleagues continue to be in the “thick of things” as the number of community members with COVID-19 has surged in recent weeks.

“It’s really scary for many of them,” D’Andra explained of the dozens of COVID-19 patients she and her CRMC colleagues have cared for. “They often feel very isolated because they can’t go outside and aren’t allowed to have visitors due to how contagious the virus is,” she explained.

D’Andra recalled one older patient in particular who was very stressed about not being at home and having little contact with his family members, who live out of state.

“He was his wife’s primary caregiver and was very concerned about her,” D’Andra shared. “He was also what you might call the backbone of the family, so was worried about how everyone at home was getting along.”

D’Andra took time to sit with the patient and learn more about his family and life. At the patient’s request, D’Andra said a short prayer with him. She also did what she could to encourage him.

“He just really needed someone to talk to and to hold his hand for a while. To be there in person,” she said.

Though cautious, D’Andra said she is not afraid of caring for patients with COVID-19: “We have learned so much since last spring. Everyone here at work understands what they need to do to keep themselves and their families safe. We wear the proper protective equipment when we are taking care of patients. We take off our work clothes before we go into our homes, and we shower before hugging our kids and families.”

D’Andra said she is also careful when she’s out in the community. “My husband [a local firefighter] and I wear face coverings and are careful about where we go and what we do.”

D’Andra wants our community to know that COVID-19 is “serious” and that people need to be careful. “And it’s not just an older person’s disease,” she added. “We’ve treated patients who are in their 30s and 40s. It’s concerning to see the number of positive cases going up.”

D’Andra encourages people to wear a face covering when they are out in public and can’t social distance. “Even if you aren’t worried for yourself, please be respectful of our elders and everyone else around you,” she said.

Thanks to D’Andra for taking time to share what it’s like to be on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are so grateful for the dedication, caring and commitment that she—and all of our employees and providers—have shown since the pandemic began.