Fighting COVID-19 inside the ICU at Memorial Hermann Katy

We've been hearing a lot from doctors in the Texas Medical Center, but we also wanted to check-in on our neighboring communities. We had a candid conversation with Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Linda Yancey with Memorial Hermann in Katy.

She says while they're seeing more patients lately with COVID-19, they still have plenty of room to treat more patients.

"Like everywhere else around the city, we have definitely seen an uptick in the number of patients here over the last few weeks. We had an average of 5 or 10, but the numbers have definitely gone up here recently," says Dr. Yancey.

She wants to encourage everyone that hospital stays have been shorter lately, because researchers and doctors have learned better how to treat this virus, since it first surfaced.

"We know so much more now than we did at the beginning. In the beginning there was some initial confusion about steroids. We now know that steroids definitely help you. The Intensivists have been working with the ventilator settings to help ventilate the patients more effectively. I wish we had more treatments, but we have just exponentially more knowledge these days than we did in the very beginning of it during March and April," explains Dr. Yancey.

She also says that treatment protocols are now in place to treat COVID-19 patients, and they can tweak the plan for each patient.

"The protocol helps us know when people should be placed on oxygen, when they should be given steroids, what dosage should be given, and for the sicker patients - who would qualify for some of the investigational treatments like convalescent plasma, the antiviral drug Remdesivir, and an anti-inflammatory agent called Tocilizumab," says Dr. Yancey.

We also talked about the emotional side of treating patients during the pandemic for healthcare workers. Most are stretched thinner than ever before, taking on new roles, as these highly contagious patients cannot have loved ones at their bedside.

"I think we were all feeling the strain. It's a very different situation the disasters we're used to dealing with because we're used to dealing with hurricanes, which are very short term. It's a week or two and then things will get back to normal. This is a marathon, rather than a sprint. And so, we are definitely feeling the strain, but the hospital community has really you know we've all reached out to one another. I know at my facility. The administration has worked with our chaplain and had things like a pizza party where everybody just came down to one of the big conference rooms and we all had pizza together. They had a relaxation lounge. It's just a bunch of beanbags in a conference room, but the rule was nobody was allowed to talk, so you just went in and had some peaceful quiet time some soothing music playing, so we're feeling the strain but we're also you know actively trying to help one another get through this," says Dr. Yancey.

Protecting their families from germs has taken a life of its own.  Dr. Yancey tries to laugh it off, to get through it.

"Everybody has a slightly different strategy I think, but most of us are doing the strip in the garage, toss the scrubs in the washing machine, and then, in my particular case warn the kids to close their eyes, and then go take a shower, so it's been a lot of extra laundry for me mostly," she laughs.

Dr. Yancey wants to make sure you call your doctor or call 911 for urgent care.

"We are still open for business! Back in April, when the whole country was locked down, we saw a dip in the number of people coming in for very serious things, like heart attacks and strokes, and it's not that they weren't having them. It's that they weren't seeking appropriate treatments, so that's a big message we're trying to get out to people. If you need to come to the hospital, please don't delay necessary medical care, especially for something as serious as chest pain or a potential stroke. The earlier we can intervene in those, the better the health outcomes. We're being very careful about this, but we are still open for business and the last thing we want is for people to delay needed medical care," states Dr. Yancey.       

Her final advice: Wear a mask!

"It's becoming increasingly obvious, the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves and the people around us is to wear a mask. These are unprecedented times. It's estimated that by October, if everybody in the state of Texas wears a mask, we can save 8,000 lives. What I would tell people is, this isn't just for you. This is something that you are doing for your community. It is showing the people around you that you care about their health, that you care about their safety. Masks are safe and effective. I am not suffering from carbon dioxide overload (from wearing a mask), that is ridiculous. Think of all those 18 hour long surgeries to separate conjoined twins, we do not have surgeons keeling over from CO2 retention during those surgeries," states Dr. Yancey.

For more information about what to have at home, in case you or a family member gets diagnosed, Memorial Hermann shares this: