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Piedmont Henry's Pulmonologists on Frontline During COVID-19

Stockbridge, Ga. (June 15, 2020) – The pulmonologists from Piedmont Pulmonary and Sleep Clinic have spent a significant amount of time caring for patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) at the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. All agree that it has been a challenging time, but also one they have learned a lot from.

“One of the biggest challenges was that we were all learning about the disease for the first time,” said Khushboo Chokshi, M.D. “Things were changing day to day and we had to keep making adjustments as new information came in.”

Dr. Chokshi and her colleagues were in constant contact with other doctors around the country and the world to share information and refine their protocols for treating COVID-19 positive patients. They filled a blackboard with everything they knew during the early stages, but now feel they know so much more. The process of treatment is now completely different than it was in the beginning. There is less of a focus on use of ventilators and a better understanding of medicines that can be used to treat or reduce the severity of COVID-19.

“When we see small spikes or if there is a second wave, we’ll have an easier time identifying COVID-19, allowing us to isolate patients faster,” said Ashar Usmani, M.D. “We also have in-house testing available now at all of our hospitals and treatment with the antiviral drug remdesivir has been approved by the FDA on an emergency basis.”

All four pulmonologists, whose practice is located across the street from Piedmont Henry Hospital, also stress the importance of contacting your physician or a pulmonologist if you’re having any difficulty breathing.

“People tend to assume that it isn’t COVID-19 and it may just be allergies causing the problem,” said Dr. Butler. “That may be the case, but if it is something more serious it is imperative we catch it early.”

Dr. Chokshi agrees and wants people to know that it is safe to come to the hospital.

“Patients who are positive for COVID-19 are identified and isolated much faster now and the hospital has protocols in place to keep patients and staff safe,” said Dr. Chokshi. “The nation has seen a lot of people who required critical or emergency care stay home because they were afraid. Your outcomes are far worse from a heart attack or stroke if you do not come to the hospital.” 

At its peak this spring, COVID-19 had a major impact on Piedmont Henry. The hospital stopped elective surgical procedures, restricted visitors, and expanded the ICU to other areas in order to accommodate more critically ill patients.

“We managed care for COVID-19 patients in the ICU, as well as other floors for the patients who were not as ill,” said Ogbonna Ogbu, M.D. “Now, we’re seeing some of those patients in an outpatient capacity as they are recovering.”

Marty Calloway was a patient at Piedmont Henry in May and praised the care he received from his doctors and nurses.

“I was scared. It was the first time I had ever been in the hospital,” Calloway said, adding that he was put on a ventilator for several days because his oxygen levels continued dropping. “Dr. Usmani and the nurses were great. I’m feeling better and getting stronger every day.”

The pulmonologists expect COVID-19 to be with us going into the flu season this fall. Dr. Chokshi believes that the practices put in place to protect each other from transmitting COVID-19 to each other; hand washing, wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, will likely help reduce flu transmission.

“The important thing for everyone to remember is that we are all in this together,” said Jennifer Butler, M.D. “It isn’t about I, but we. Wearing masks and keeping distance not only protects you and your family, but it also protects your friends and neighbors. We have a moral responsibility to care for each other.”

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