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UVA Health doctors describe lessons learned and future hopes after more than a year of pandemic life

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (WVIR) – Reflecting on what our community has learned in the nearly 15 months since the discovery of the first case of COVID-19 in Charlottesville has led us to conversations with two doctors at the University of Virginia, Taison Bell and Kathy Bonham.

In conversations, during the 2020 discussion, the words that kept coming back were: “uncertainty”, “fear” and “anxiety”. They say the job still has its challenges, but they’ve learned a lot. Now they have some hope.

“We were dealing with patients, two to three times as many as we were used to seeing,” said Bonham, a pulmonologist. “But at the same time, there was a void because often the families of patients really couldn’t get in.”

Bonham has described this as the reality throughout the peaks of this pandemic. The hours after work weren’t much easier.

“You come home and we all had our routines, but they usually involve going straight to the shower without interacting with our families,” Bell said. He is the director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit.

Both doctors say those times were very difficult as they really didn’t know how to treat COVID. But more than a year later, optimism reigns after the darkest year for American public health.

“We recognize that this is not a sprint. It’s kind of a marathon, ”Bonham said. “I think the team mentality of coming together as healthcare providers in the intensive care unit is something that has really helped us weather the storm.”

This teamwork that Bonham talked about is what drives Bell.

“I think patient care is beneficial when we have cross collaboration and teamwork,” he said. “We need to find a way to continue this relationship and find ways to work even more closely together for the good of our patients. “

The work is not yet done. We asked Bell what the intensive care unit he currently runs looks like. He says there are still COVID patients, and the hospital and its employees are taking responsibility now that science says vaccines are effective in keeping people out.

“If there is a service or something that our patients need, no matter how they feel or not, it’s our job to convince them to try to reduce the structure or the barriers around them to access. the help they need, ”Bell mentioned.

Bell says his source of optimism comes from knowing that vaccines can be a source to turn the tide of the pandemic. Bonham says she hopes the mental health of doctors and patients will be an even higher priority in the future.

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