1. Ulmer, Dawn E. BSN, RN

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For years I was a home healthcare nurse specializing in helping workers with disabilities due to workplace injuries. I thoroughly enjoyed my job. Recently I found myself stuck between life and death. In January, I became ill and got steadily worse. After being diagnosed with Covid-19 and pneumonia at the emergency room (ER), I was told I would have to "ride it out," and that it would probably get worse before it got better. The only thing to be done was to prescribe an antibiotic for pneumonia. I was told to stop taking insulin for type 2 diabetes but to keep taking all other medications as usual. I was a "good patient" and did as I was told, not having the energy to do otherwise. Too sick to think clearly, I knew I needed my son's help.


I knew I was in danger and journeyed to the ER a second time. This time I had a urinary tract infection (UTI). Having had sepsis 10 years ago from a UTI, I was glad that an antibiotic was prescribed. It began to work. For 17 days, however, I had been stuck between life and death. By the beginning of February, I could no longer walk, could barely speak, and was unable to read or write. Nothing pulled me out of that foggy, grey place.


Thankfully, the primary care provider (PCP) ordered a home healthcare team of a registered nurse, physical therapist (PT), home health aide, and occupational therapist (OT) to come into my home. Bit by bit they brought me back to the land of the living. With God's help, the nurse saw what medications needed to be changed and advocated for me with my PCP. She also drew blood for lab work. The OT, filled with good humor, bluster and confidence, got me on my feet and walking. In the next 6 weeks of almost daily visits, the nurse advocated to have the insulin restarted. The diuretics and blood pressure (BP) meds were adjusted so my BP wasn't so low. Pain management was needed. The nurse asked for an increase in medication dosage to keep it under control. Even though my son and I were concerned about the low BP, nothing was done until the nurse spoke up.


The OT created a safe way for me to get in and out of the shower. I began walking in the hallways to rebuild my strength. The PT gave specific exercises which, at first, I could not do. Then I could do one.... then ten! Over the next 6 weeks, I went from wheelchair to walker, to cane and finally walking on my own!


I changed PCPs, realizing that in a crisis, I could not count on her to work with my son when I couldn't speak for myself. Insulin should not have been discontinued. The diuretic and the BP medication should have been adjusted to keep a more normal BP. Never expecting to be unable to care for myself, I needed a PCP who was a better communicator. I waited until I stabilized, and the home care team "graduated" me, then found a new PCP who listens and is responsive. I believe the home healthcare team saved my life! The nurse, especially, observed and LISTENED, advocating for me every step of the way. It's been 6 weeks since the team closed my case. I am still progressing. I will forever be grateful for those who came into my home to help