Panel of speakers at Adventist Health Portland

Stories of Hope from Portland

Legacy Culture

Alex Bryan: Diana, Kam, Kyle, here we are in beautiful Portland, Oregon, in April. So great to be with you. Kyle, why don't you lead off? Tell us about hope.

Kyle King: Absolutely. On President's Day weekend, Portland had a snowstorm, and this is like a classic Portland snowstorm where it snows a foot or eight inches and then it dumps ice right on top of that. It's beautiful, but it shuts the city down. It knocks us out. You can't drive. You can't move. You're on your own, and it was treacherous. But, in the middle of a snowstorm, you can't stop caring for patients in your hospital. And we happened to have every ER room jam-packed full of patients, somewhere between 80 and 100 patients in our lobby of our ER. Some of them were houseless folks that were there to be warm. Some of them had been discharged from the hospital. So, I thought my job at that moment was to show up in the ER and find a way to help, dive in, support these staff that are doing amazing things for people.

So, I found the first provider there I could. They were sitting with a nurse working on a patient issue and I said, "How can I help?" And both the nurse and the provider were, "Yeah, we have a way. You need to help us. And here's how you need to help us." And she told me the story, about ten hours earlier that day, she had seen a patient and she had to deliver really tragic news to that patient, a terminal illness, not likely that there's a good outcome. And this patient was very fragile, elderly, and all alone here in Portland. And then, that patient went back to the lobby, and for ten hours was stuck there trying to figure out a way to get home, but there was no possible way and no end in sight.

This provider said, "Kyle, we have to find a way to help this patient. We cannot let this patient spend the night in an ED waiting room. We can't do it. He has to go home." And it struck me, right, that this is a physician in the busiest day of their clinical life and her head was about kindness, and love, and what this person needed, not just about excellent clinical care, which is so important, but also about this person needs something more from us. She told me, "I'm going to put him in my car and I'm going to drive him home. But I don't know when my relief is coming. I don't know when I get off, and I can't stop thinking about the pain he's in and we got to help." It is such a beautiful illustration of what hope and what love looks like in the middle of difficult things, in the middle of a really hard time.

Alex Bryan: And I believe you found a way to get him home, didn't you?

Kyle King: We did. We found a way to get him home. Absolutely. We wouldn't settle for anything less.

Alex Bryan: Absolutely beautiful. Kyle, thank you so much. Diana, tell us about hope.

Diana Erdmann: Hope. Man, 2020, what a year. Right? Starts off with a bang. We've got resolutions. We've got plans. We've got trips. We've got graduations. And COVID hits and it brings so much uncertainty and anxiety. We get together and we set up the command center, and we start the plan of how we are going to manage the patients that come through our door with COVID.

And what, I think, the first moment of hope in 2020 was that I can remember is the day we discharged our very first COVID patient out of the hospital. We lined the hallway to escort him out. There was housekeeping, and plant services, and respiratory therapists, nursing, chaplain, all of the various disciplines that had been involved in this patient's care over the last three weeks. There was not a dry eye lining that hallway. And what brought hope is that we had done it. We had helped save this patient's life and we knew we could do it over and over again. And we have shown that over the last year we have taken care of, I believe, hundreds of COVID patients. And we haven't been successful for every one of them, but the team sure has given 100% for every single patient. We have learned a lot. We, I believe, ended 2020 hopeful that 2021 would be significantly different.

Alex Bryan: I loved how you described hope in such realistic terms, because every patient doesn't make that celebratory journey out of the hospital. But yet, as a team, you grieve with those who are grieving, but then you have that incredible celebration, which must have just lifted everyone's spirits.

Diana Erdmann: Absolutely. We cry together. We laugh together. We try to inject fun into the work that we do. The team has grown that much stronger over this last year. I'm so proud of the work that they do. Still, even as we're continuing to care for COVID patients, not one individual shies away from it.

Alex Bryan: So powerful. Thank you for sharing. Kam, talk to us about hope.

Dr. Kamaljit Atwal: Well, I think it all begins with hope, no matter what you do in life. And particularly for me as a caregiver, it is all about hope, from the day I show up to the day I leave. So, I think at the beginning when everyone was very scared of the unknown, we didn't have a lot of tools to treat this virus. And we, as healthcare givers, wanted to give patients hope to say, "We are here to serve you. We can get you through this."

But I remember one story, in particular, of a man that came in, and he did not want to come to the ICU. But, as his oxygenation decreased, he ended up in the ICU. And his biggest fear was, "I do not want to be intubated. I do not want to be on the ventilator. I've heard that once you get on the ventilator, you don't get off the ventilator." We formed a relationship with him, as he deteriorated, to have him have faith in us and hope that we were going to do the right thing. So, he actually let us put him on the ventilator. After about two and a half weeks, I was on call again. So, when we got that tube out, when you've been on the ventilator for two and a half weeks, you don't have much of a voice. And he just pointed at me and said, "Thank you." And at that moment, I knew that we had given him that hope, and he had given us hope in ourselves that we can treat this disease, because we felt very helpless at the beginning about what we were able to do or not do.

Alex Bryan: So, I imagine you would say your team is different today than they were a year ago.

Dr. Kamaljit Atwal: Absolutely. We all learned that if we work together and we have innovative ideas, you can overcome anything, because at the end of the day, in humanity all we have is hope and faith. And if you use those driving factors, I think you can succeed in anything.

Alex Bryan: Thank you so much for sharing so beautifully and powerfully. You've gifted all of us with hope. Thank you.