LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Wednesday, March 17 marked one year since UofL Health-Jewish Hospital opened its COVID-19 unit. 

“In the beginning lots of of crazy emotions, you know, fear,” said Angela Lux about when the pandemic first started last year. She is the nurse manager of the Covid-19 unit at Jewish Hospital. 

The hardest part for her with the pandemic? The unknown. She reflected Wednesday on the meetings the team used to have to plan for surges in case numbers.

“Those meetings would leave me sick to my stomach and crying,” Lux said.

So far, she said her unit has lost 63 patients.

“There for a while we were having husbands and wives come in, and a couple of them had died hours apart or days apart and just knowing that those families have lost both parents in a matter of days around these holidays…and to know that they couldn’t be there, and it was done over a telephone or a zoom call,” Lux said. She added if she could change one thing about the past year it would be that.

Lux said at the height of the pandemic, there were 50 or more COVID-19 patients in isolation. Now, she said there are four at Jewish Hospital.

“To know that we have four in the hospital right now, in isolation, it feels like a win, to a point,” she said.

Right after the pandemic started, John Walsh became the hospital’s chief administrative officer.

“This has been one of the most interesting, and I’ll use the word interesting, years in my entire career,” he said.

Walsh said that today, people have a higher chance of surviving COVID-19 at Jewish Hospital versus a year ago.

“And that comes with knowing more about the disease,” he said.

Medical Director of Jewish Hospital’s hospitalist program, Dr. Valerie Briones-Pryor, said medical school and residency doesn’t prepare you for anything like how this past year has been.

“You read about these things in history books, but never ever have I been in a situation such as the past 12 months,” Pryor said.

Pryor still remembers the first COVID-19 patient she took care of. She said he was 42-years-old, which was two years younger than her at the time.

“He couldn’t even breathe just to sit from a laying position to swing his legs to the side of the bed,” she said. “And he was on so much oxygen, and I was scared because that was my first patient with COVID-19, and I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, are they all going to be like this?'”

Pryor stopped working in the COVID-19 unit when she lost her 50th patient two weeks ago to get back to her work prior to the pandemic as a medical director. 

However, Pryor said the pandemic brought her back to what she loves about medicine.

“You know, we talk about people’s calling in life, and, for me, medicine and taking care of patients, that’s my calling,” she said.