Health care heroes: ‘You’re not alone. ‘I’m here.’

Health care heroes: ‘You’re not alone. ‘I’m here.’

For the past 11 years, Ashley Slazes has cared for patients and their families in the pediatric intensive care unit at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge. Now, she’s stepped up to work in our adult COVID units.

“I volunteered to work there because I really want to help however I can during this pandemic,” she says. “Critical care nursing requires special skills and knowledge, so I feel it’s important for nurses with this skill set to help each other care for critically ill COVID patients. I know how difficult it is when your unit is short-staffed and extremely busy. I wanted to help alleviate some of that stress for other nurses.”

Ashley says it’s obvious how much the nurses in the adult COVID unit she’s been working in care about their patients – and also how stressful the pandemic has been for them.

“This patient population is unlike anything anyone has seen before. It’s required a different kind of nursing than anyone is used to. These patients are sicker and decompensate much faster than other patients. We have to limit our time in patient rooms, and it’s essential to put on proper PPE before going into a room, even if a patient is decompensating. All of these things go against a nurse’s instincts to rush in and help patients in distress. But these steps are necessary to protect ourselves and others.”

“It’s been a challenge adjusting to caring for these patients – and the fact that they’re alone. It makes for an emotionally taxing shift to see patients struggle with this disease process and then pass away alone. The only solace is being able to help families see their loved ones and talk to them through technology. As emotional as it is to care for these patients, I try to help them feel they are loved. Being able to hold the hand of a dying patient and tell them, “You’re not alone. I’m here,” has helped me feel like maybe I’ve made a small difference in their life.”

She says the pandemic has changed not only the way we work but how we live our lives. “I feel more appreciative and grateful for my family and friends, especially my kids and husband. They would probably tell you I hug and kiss them way too much now! This has really put everything into perspective – what is and isn’t important in life. I’m so thankful to have such supportive family, friends and coworkers. They make these difficult times much more bearable.”

In the photo, Ashley is thanking individuals who have donated medical supplies to help care for patients.

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is the public affairs coordinator at Advocate Children's Hospital. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.