CLEVELAND, Ohio — Veronica Rice, 31, a patient care nursing assistant at the Cleveland Clinic, tries to lighten the mood every time she walks into a COVID-19 patient’s room.
This story, as told to reporter Julie Washington, is part of “Faces from the Front Lines of Coronavirus,” a cleveland.com series of stories describing the ways in which the pandemic has affected caregivers and families throughout Northeast Ohio.
Read other installments of Faces from the Front Lines of Coronavirus here.
Today, Rice describes how a slice of pizza made a patient happy:
A lot of people are frightened to work on the COVID-19 unit because they’re scared of catching it. But I say, if we are all afraid, how can we take care of others? I look at it as helping out somebody who can’t help themselves.
I work with people who are not on ventilators, but need supplemental oxygen. Some people have gotten sicker and gone to the intensive care unit, but a lot of them I’ve seen go home. Family members are able to come in now, but there are strict visitation hours. We try to limit the amount of exposure.
I’m very outgoing. Sometimes I go into a room and I do a little rap to introduce myself, just to lighten the mood. I always look at a patient as if they’re one of my own. That’s where the connection comes in. Being in nursing, your heart has to be in it.
Early in the pandemic, I was taking care of a patient and he was very sick with the virus. He didn’t want to be bothered with anybody, didn’t want anybody taking care of him or helping him out to get out of bed. I said, “OK, let me try my luck. Let me go in there and see what I can do.”
I went in there, I sat down, I had a talk with him and I just treated him like he was my own family. We talked about different things. At that time we couldn’t have visitors come in at all. He was complaining, “I can’t see my wife, I want to see my wife.” So I said, “Why don’t we just FaceTime her? You can see your wife, you can see your dog, and we can just have a good conversation.”
That cheered him up. He started coming around; he let us get him up to walk – because lying in bed, you can get very, very weak.
When he left, he said, “I want to treat you to something because you were so nice to me. I want to get pizza for everybody.” So he ordered pizza and subs for everybody. When the pizza came, he wanted a slice. He didn’t like the food in the hospital and wasn’t eating a lot.
He was like, “Don’t forget me! If you can just sneak me one slice, you’ll be the best person in the whole wide world!” So I gave him a piece of pepperoni and sausage pizza, and he was just overjoyed.
I brought the iPad in the room, and he contacted his wife and he was bragging about the pizza. He was really excited. That really made his day and made his time being there much easier for him.
It was amazing. It made me feel really good knowing I took a situation that wasn’t going so good, turned it around and put a smile on somebody’s face. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my family about it.
He was there more than two weeks. I had some time to get to know him, his wife and one of his sons. He did go home. That’s the one who touched me the most.
I love what I do, I love making a difference. It’s really an honor to work on that COVID-19 floor, and see them get better and go home after fighting this disease.
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