National Nurses Day spotlight: Rehab facility plays crucial role in COVID-19 recovery

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The road to recovery for COVID-19 patients can be long and difficult, and that doesn’t always stop when they’re discharged from the hospital.

The lasting effects of the virus can leave people weak and in need of further care. That’s where facilities like Ashton Creek Health and Rehabilitation step into the light.

“After somebody has been in the intensive care unit, they may take 4-6 weeks of recovery for every week they were in the intensive care unit in order to rebuild their strength, and to just get themselves back to being ready to get back to home,” explained Dr. Scott Stienecker, Medical Director of Epidemiology and Infection Prevention at Parkview Health Systems.

Ashton Creek is one of four facilities in Fort Wayne that Parkview Health sends its patients to after primary care is finished at the hospital. It has a designated COVID-19 unit with 16 beds sealed off from the rest of the facility. The unit also features a team specially trained in how to contain and treat the virus’s long-term symptoms.

“We just get them back to being a human again. That’s what they have told us – they just feel like they’re not human,” said Ashleigh Martinez, COVID-19 Unit Manager at Ashton Creek.

Martinez oversees the COVID unit alongside Ashton Creek Director of Nursing Shawn Blackburn.

“So many people are stepping up to the plate and doing what needs to be done,” said Blackburn. “It’s truly just an amazing team.”

The role that nurses play within that team is something that people around the country are giving special attention to this week and Wednesday in particular as part of National Nurses Day. It’s a profession that has recently become even more important in society, as the world continues to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s not always glamorous, and it certainly isn’t easy, but for nurses like Ashleigh Martinez, the opportunity to make a difference in the world is worth it.

“I think it was scary when we first opened, but now that we’re seeing these people discharge and we’re seeing the good that’s coming out of it, it’s so exciting,” Martinez said. “This is history, and we’re able to help change it.”

At Ashton Creek, that change is coming one patient, and one happy goodbye at a time.

“There’s usually lots of tears,” Blackburn said. “You almost feel like as the nurse, like you’re letting your child go, because it’s like they’re ours, and we’ve taken them and watched them progress like that, and it’s just really very very emotional and touching.”

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