Caregivers fight to save COVID-19 patients at INTEGRIS Canadian Valley Hospital

Patients treated in Yukon

Dr. Elise Kuykendall

INTEGRIS Canadian Valley Hospital in Yukon is caring for several coronavirus patients, some of whom are critically ill, hospital officials report.

These patients are sicker than your average patient. This is definitely not the flu. Our COVID patients are sick for a long time. They are not recovering quickly from this,” said Elise Kuykendall, D.O., who is on the front lines of the pandemic. She says what happens to the body is called the “cytokine storm.”

This is when there is a severe immune reaction in which the body releases too many cytokines into the blood too quickly. Cytokines play an important role in the normal immune response but having a large amount of them released all at once can be harmful,” she explains. “Sometimes it can even be life-threatening and lead to multiple organ failure.”

Mary Lou White is a nurse in the COVID Unit at Canadian Valley. She says this illness can be extreme.

“Once a patient is intubated, from my experience, they can deteriorate quickly – sometimes within 24 hours,” White said. “They struggle for air. They never seem to be able to catch their breath.”

Nurse Mary Lou White

Caitlin Coppock is a respiratory therapist at the hospital. She knows her particular skill set is necessary to defeat this virus.

I don’t think a lot of people understand what ‘flatten the curve’ really means. Flattening the curve does not mean we will eliminate the disease completely, it just buys us more time to properly prepare for what could be coming,” Coppock said.

 We may need more equipment, like ventilators, to handle the potential surge. But you need more than just the machines. You have to have individuals who are specifically trained to use those machines. It takes years of experience to truly understand how to critically care for these patients,” Coppock said.

Coppock worries more about a staffing shortage in her specialty than she does about having the proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

I feel we are well informed and well supplied. I’m not scared. It is a little unsettling to deal with something you haven’t seen before, but I am confident in our procedures.”

Caregivers urge people to follow shelter-in-place guidelines.