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Ohio Life | Live Well Ohio

Live Well Ohio: July/Aug. 2020

Try these five ways to ban the quarantine blues. Plus, a frontline healthcare worker at Cleveland Clinic shares the victories that keep caregivers going in the face of COVID-19.

Let Your Spirits Soar
Banish the quarantine blues by finding joy in new ways to gather, travel and connect.

What do you miss most about life before COVID-19 — those days when we gathered with friends, embarked on family vacations and met with colleagues in the office? Maybe you feel empty without the time you spent playing with grandchildren. Perhaps you wish you could attend a lively sporting event with other fans.

“Even though we are all in this together, we are not all in it in the same way,” says Heather McGinty, a psychologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

Here, she offers safe substitutes that fill some of the gaps social distancing has created with joy, strength and peace of mind.

Plan a virtual trip: Gather with family remotely by using video communication platforms such as Zoom and Skype. “You’ll still be connecting,” McGinty says. Online museum tours and concerts offer countless ways to share experiences without leaving home.

Play 6 feet away: “If you enjoy watching the grandkids run and play, FaceTime isn’t going to cut it,” McGinty acknowledges. “Get together in the backyard and abide by social distancing rules. It will feel like a vacation.”

Exercise creatively: Exercise boosts mood-lifting endorphins, and there are many ways to get a healthy dose of happy by working out. Take a hike. Walk with a friend and keep your distance. Check out an online workout class. Designate an exercise buddy and hold each other accountable. “Check in and ask, ‘Have you worked out today?’ ” McGinty suggests.

Escape at home: “For some who are not able to see people they care about, the best connection is a good book,” McGinty says. “You can read and get out of your own world.” Movies and music are also fulfilling distractions.

Go easy on yourself: “Be compassionate and give yourself a bit of grace during this time,” McGinty says. “We have a lot more resilience than we give ourselves credit for.”

Cleveland Clinic frontline healthcare worker (photo courtesy of Cleveland Clinic)
United Front
Cleveland Clinic staff and patients inspire each other in the fight against COVID-19.

Tuscarawas County resident Nic Brown asked one of his nurses at Cleveland Clinic’s main campus to help him write a message for his caregivers on his window in the COVID-19 section of the Medical Intensive Care Unit. Brown, who was admitted March 14 and released March 27, was among the first group of patients to arrive with the coronavirus.

“I watched you work hard to keep me and others alive,” the message began, “unable to thank you for the time that you poured into me — and although I will probably never get the chance to pour that same love and support into you, I want you to know that I think you all are rock stars.”

Messages like these give patients hope and comfort as they battle the infectious disease, not knowing what their outcome will be, explains Cleveland Clinic main campus MICU director and pulmonologist Eduardo Mireles-Cabodevila.

“They feel they are not alone,” the doctor says simply.

By the time Brown arrived at Cleveland Clinic, a team led by Mireles-Cabodevila was ready for a patient load they expected would be 20 times greater than the MICU’s normal capacity of 64 beds.

“We had just come back from a Society of Critical Care meeting and it was very evident the [virus] was going to spread,” Mireles-Cabodevila explains. “We rapidly identified a need to keep our caregivers and patients safe — not just doctors and nurses, but the people who deliver food, clean the rooms, the radiology technicians — everyone.”

Cleveland Clinic implemented strict protocols that included limiting the number of staff members admitted in the COVID-19 patient area. Caregivers worked grueling shifts, with some self-quarantining from their loved ones as they focused on those under their watch. During the crisis, silver linings served as much needed inspiration for everyone.
Mireles-Cabodevila gets emotional while describing the day he delivered good news to a patient worried about whether he’d need to be intubated: The doctor wrote, “You will not need a breathing tube” on the unit’s glass wall.

“The man cried out of pure joy,” the pulmonologist says. “He was like, ‘Really?’ I told him, ‘You are not out of the woods, but we are going to get you there.’ ”

The average MICU stay for coronavirus patients is 8 to 10 days. With every patient, more knowledge is gleaned.

“Because of an interdisciplinary team approach,” Mireles-Cabodevila says, “we are organized and study what is going on to generate evidence as fast as possible to help other patients. That means understanding what each team member does so there are no redundancies and creating a safe space where anyone can say ‘There is a problem,’ or ‘I saw this.’”

But the biggest measure of success happens when patients are discharged.

“The happiness of someone walking out just feels good,” Mireles-Cabodevila says. “There are high-fives all around.”