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HomeCommunityHealth Care Warriors push forward during global pandemic

Health Care Warriors push forward during global pandemic

For Chelsea Pease Engle, working as a resource nurse and health supervisor at Stillwater Medical Center has never been more important.

As the novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues to spread within Oklahoma, she is seeing an influx of patients at the hospital.

“These patients are very, very sick. I will say that in my 15 years of nursing, and I’m trying to think of a word that doesn’t cause havoc or panic, but this is the most serious virus I have ever seen,” she said. “How fast it spreads, how sick people get, I have a personal friend that is healthy, she’s my age, she got it and was down for over a week. It’s so brutal and the ones that do come to the hospital and are sick, they’re sick and then all of a sudden, they’re really sick. It’s unreal how fast they go from pretty sick to critically sick. It’s quick.”

She’s worked at Stillwater Medical Center for 13 years and said the culture and environment of the hospital is more like family than a job. They have each other’s backs and are committed to seeing the pandemic through. She said the issues surrounding the pandemic, such as the isolation, financial hardships and the people who refuse to follow CDC guidelines and stay home, everyone needs to remember they’re in this together.

“My advice is to stop looking for ‘who’s’ and ‘why’s’ and ‘what if’s’ and really focus on staying home, social distancing, washing your hands, covering your cough, not touching your face,” she said. “Most importantly, be kind and empathetic to others. Everybody’s scared.”

Dr. Layton Lamsam, who is currently a resident physician in neurological surgery at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, is experiencing being a health care provider along with his wife Sarah, who works in the Emergency Department as a registered nurse.

“As neurosurgeons, my colleagues and I have adapted our practice to keep our patients safe and support those on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak. We are running on a skeleton crew, as many of our supporting clinical staff are now working with other departments to assist in the care of COVID patients,” he said. “One of the unanticipated effects of the outbreak has been the emotional toll it has had on non-COVID patients and their families. The hospital itself is on lockdown, so patients cannot see their loved ones in person except under special circumstances.”

He said precautions have extended far beyond limiting visitors. Non-essential staff are staying home, and administrative tasks are now entirely digital. Doctors and nurses have their temperature taken before work, and they wear masks at all times.

“We should stick to the CDC guidelines for staying safe, which are laid out on their website,” he said. “This outbreak is an opportunity for us to live out our values, safeguarding our elders and our sick. It has been difficult for me to socially distance from my family at home, but I have to put their health as top priority.”

Cherie Lookout is the health administrator for Pawhuska-based Osage Home Health. As a trained nurse, she and her staff provide a wide range of health services for patients after an illness or injury. Their service area covers Osage County.

“Working as a health care worker during the pandemic invites so many different emotions, it’s exhausting. Every day I wake up without a fever or symptoms, I thank God for giving me that day. I go to work and know that not only am I going out into danger, but I’m sending nurses into danger,” she said. “The only thing I can do is teach them how to protect themselves and try my very best to arm them with protective equipment that will soon be depleted. I also have a responsibility to protect my patients the best I can. During this pandemic, I lower the risk by minimizing my patient’s visits without causing harm knowing that this might kill our small agency financially.”

She said her routine has changed after she comes home from work. Shoes off outside, clothes off and she puts them straight into the washer. She goes straight to the shower. Her children have learned they cannot come near her until she has had a shower. She said even after her routine she is still afraid to hug them.

“I pray throughout the day for so many. I pray at night. I try to stay calm. I drive home from work and see kids mingling or families taking their children inside a small store,” she said. “I want to tell them they are making this fight so much more difficult. I quit going in my parent’s home a few weeks ago.

“I want so very bad to sit with them again, but it is just not worth the risk. We have to come together and do what we need to and that means people staying home. We have to care for our elders safely. We have to pray for each other and pray for a vaccine. I can’t even watch the news anymore. I am a nurse in this pandemic, and I am afraid.”

If you are an Osage health care worker and would like to appear in our Health Care Warriors segment in the May edition of the Osage News, please send us your photo and a small 100-word bio to by April 27.


Shannon Shaw Duty

Original Publish Date: 2020-04-15 00:00:00


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Shannon Shaw Duty
Shannon Shaw Duty is the editor of the Osage News. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor's degree in Journalism and a master's degree in Legal Studies, Indigenous Peoples Law from the OU College of Law. She served on the Board of Directors for the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) from 2013-2016 and served as a board member and Chairwoman for the Pawhuska Johnson O’Malley Parent Committee from 2017-2020. She is a Chips Quinn Scholar, a former instructor for the Freedom Forum’s Native American Journalism Career Conference and the Freedom Forum’s American Indian Journalism Institute. She is a former reporter for The Santa Fe New Mexican. She is a 2012 recipient of the Native American 40 Under 40 from the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED). In 2014 she helped lead the Osage News to receive the Elias Boudinot Free Press Award, NAJA’s highest honor. An Osage tribal member, she and her family are from the Grayhorse District. She currently resides in Pawhuska, Okla., with her husband and six children.

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