Our healthcare workers have the unique vantage point of seeing the impacts of COVID-19 firsthand. They see not only the challenges of providing care for sick patients, but the tragedies that surround the pandemic and the successes as the number of sick dwindles. We interviewed Dr. Greg Golden, a pulmonologist and critical care specialist with Banner Health, to get his firsthand account.
Q.Tell us about yourself.
A. I am a board certified Pulmonary and Critical Care Certified Physician and the Critical Care Director for Banner Health Colorado, as well as Chief of Medicine at McKee Medical Center. I am married with three kids, ages 12, 9 and 6 years old. Why pulmonary medicine? Easy, because I love it. To me, nothing is scarier than the inability to breath, and the opportunity to help people to have ease of breath and increased freedom is a wonderful feeling. I also spend significant time in the ICU. I love that because of the acuity. I trust my critical care team, and the chance to lead it is the pinnacle of my career. The chance to do everything that can [be done to] help the sickest of the sick, and working as part of that team, is the greatest privilege of all.
Q.What are the biggest challenges our local health systems are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A. The biggest challenge our local systems face is manpower. There are only so many nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists. Banner Health’s leadership has been amazing. We have met the need for advanced therapy, vents, ICU beds and supplies. Although the system did creative things to meet staffing needs, we always had enough. We brought ICU nurses and respiratory therapists from other states to meet our needs. If needed, we will help other states when our situation stabilizes.
Q.Do you feel there will be lasting impacts to the community because of COVID-19, or do you feel we can go back to normal in the coming months?
A. I do think we will have long-lasting impacts. I think the way we interact with each other will be different. I think we will have a slight distrust of everyone around us that coughs for the next year. I can see people wearing masks until we have a vaccine, even if the government says we don’t have to. I think we will start seeing things return to a new normal by the middle of June to early July. That doesn’t mean things won’t open back up as far as businesses, etc., but more in the way we behave—the ease at which we shop, relax, enjoy, go to church. I hope we realize the things we have at home already are precious, and time with our families is a gift. I hope we appreciate things differently. Maybe we value things less and each other more.
Q. Do you feel there may be a rebound of the coronavirus?
A. I don’t think we’re going to know if there is going to be a rebound for months. I think we are at risk of having one in the fall and a smaller one when we re-open, but we won’t know until then. We just need to be vigilant. We don’t have enough data to say how immunity works and how much herd immunity has developed in this disease.
Q. How has your family life been impacted being on the front lines?
A. I realize just how amazing my wife is! While I have been spending more time at work both in process creation and planning, as well as direct patient care, she has been at home. She has been organizing online education for our children, and [acting] a single parent as there are many days that I do not see my children or wife at all. While this is hard on my psyche, it just reinforces my feelings of amazement of how wonderful she is.We have to protect our families from the risk of bringing the disease home to them. We have had to create plans for showering and decontamination when we get home. Banner Health has provided showers, changing areas and fresh laundered scrubs to our team in the ICU. That way we can shower and change into our non-contaminated clothing before even leaving the facility. This helps us protect our families.
Q.What have you experienced in support from the community? How has this impacted your personal ability to care for patients in this particularly difficult time?
A. The support we have received from the community has been incredible. Local churches, restaurants, businesses, individuals and Boy Scout troops have shown how strong we are here in NOCO, and how we support each other shows the quality of people here. It makes me proud to live here. I knew from when I went to UNC for my undergrad that this was an amazing place, and raising my family here would be a gift. What the community has done, more than anything else, is to provide hope to our nursing teams. They are working so hard—extra shifts, longer hours, sicker patients. Knowing that the good people of Northern Colorado have our backs makes everything easier. What the community can [continue to] do for us is easy: don’t get sick but live your lives. Take all precautions that the CDC and the State are recommending. But we don’t want you to live in fear. We want you to kiss your kids, hug your spouse and appreciate life. And we want the community to know that if you do get sick, we will be here for you.