Patient Story Written by Breann Lujan-Halcon
Sidelined by COVID-19, Leilani is getting back in her groove and has received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
At age 79, Leilani Bergstrom lets very little slow her down. When she was diagnosed with COVID-19 and pneumonia in late-October, she was briefly out of commission.
Unable to care for her clients at the Eppson Center for Seniors as she had been doing for the last 20 years, Leilani relied on services at Ivinson to get her back to 100 percent.
“When I was younger, I worked at Ivinson Memorial Hospital for about four years as a senior aide, and I enjoyed it very much,” Leilani said.
During the 1960s, things at Ivinson were very different than the present day hospital where Leilani receives treatment; in fact, it was a completely different building.
“I worked on 2nd floor east in the old hospital,” she recalled of the building that stood at 10th Street and Ivinson Avenue. A few short years following her departure, Ivinson Memorial Hospital opened its doors at 255 North 30th Street in 1973.
In 2020, Leilani found herself being treated for the novel coronavirus on a newly erected COVID-19 isolation unit. Her hospital stay differed immensely from her previous interactions at Ivinson. Despite the evolving differences, Leilani found comfort in one constant, the high quality of care she has come to know and expect.
Diagnosed with COVID
In the week leading up to Halloween, Leilani had what she thought was a head cold. Feeling cold and miserable, her sister convinced her to seek care. Presenting to the Ivinson Emergency room with low oxygen saturation levels, Leilani was swabbed for COVID-19 and treated with steroids and antibiotics.
“I never really ran a temperature. I just felt like I had a head cold,” Leilani said. A few days later, she received a call from the ER, she had COVID-19.
“I spent a week here at the house and on November 1st, I went back to the hospital because I didn’t feel good,” she said. “I called the ambulance for myself and in the examination they found out that I had COVID and pneumonia in my right lung, so they admitted me to the hospital.”
There, Leilani was sent to Ivinson’s recently established COVID-19 unit. At the south end of the medical/surgical unit, affectionately named “COVID-land,” a temporary isolation wall separates patients positive for COVID-19 from the rest of the medical/surgical unit.
Living with COPD and on continuous oxygen, Leilani considers herself lucky in her battle with COVID-19.
“I had shortness of breath and a cough when I came in,” she said of her symptoms. “I thought I would be sicker, but there were people on ventilators up there and some people were worse off than I was.”
No stranger to patient care at Ivinson, Leilani knew and trusted she was in good hands.
“In the past 10 years, I have spent a great deal of time at Ivinson, with my husband, with the people I have taken care of,” she said of her frequent visits to both inpatient and outpatient services. “My husband had excellent care all the times he was up here.”
While being treated for COVID-19, Leilani was cared for by Ivinson Hospitalist Dr. Marty Carlson, a provider she came to know and love when he cared for her late husband, Eddie. Despite strikingly different accommodations, she found comfort in the familiarity she had with the Ivinson team.
“I had to stay in my room,” she said of her inpatient stay. “The staff were all masked up.”
It was a very different level of care than isolation precautions in the 60s Leilani recalled. Not only did isolation look a lot different, but the nurses themselves did as well.
“Back in my time, nurses wore white and they wore hats. Being a university town, we had nurses that were putting their husbands through school and they didn’t graduate from here so their hats were different, depending on where they came from.”
Leilani shared her fond memories of Ivinson with the nurses and aides that would visit with her during her stay.
“They were all just very courteous, very polite, I had a lot of fun visits with them,” she said. “It was a pleasant stay. If it wasn’t for their friendliness and their caring, it would have been a long five days.”
On the Mend
On November 6th, Leilani was discharged from the COVID-19 unit and left Ivinson Memorial Hospital. She had lost 6 pounds and went home with an inhaler and a quarantine order.
Given the all clear by primary care provider, Dr. Emma Bjore, Leilani is still working towards feeling like herself again. Following an extended quarantine period, she returned to her bi-weekly scheduled physical therapy appointments at Ivinson’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Clinic.
“Since about 2010, I have been coming here for therapy and I just love it because it is like family,” her visits were interrupted by her COVID-19 diagnosis but since returning, Leilani feels like she is making progress. “I’m just a little tired from it,” she said. “I’m not a sitter, so sitting around is quite a chore for me. I’m still having a little weakness and having to work to get my strength back.”
In December, Leilani returned to the work she loves, as a homemaker with the Eppson Center.
“I go in and do their shopping and taking them to their medical appointments” she said. “I enjoy taking care of my two ladies. It gets me up and I can go do something. This past year, I’ve had to slow down at 79.”
Dedicated to continuing her community service with the Rebekahs Auxiliary and working with the elderly, Leilani was eager to get in line for her COVID-19 vaccine once it arrived in Albany County.
“I am glad to see they’re getting the vaccine out there,” she said as she waited at the Albany County Vaccine Clinic. “It protects me and the people that I help at the Eppson Center. I’ve had COVID-19 and I was luckier than most people, I wouldn’t want to give it to anyone else.”
At the beginning of February, Leilani received her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and is scheduled to receive her second dose in early March.
When she isn’t caring for others, Leilani takes pride in keeping her cookie jar stocked with snickerdoodles for her sons and grandchildren who now come clad in matching masks when they visit. This April, Leilani is looking forward to welcoming her 14th great grandchild.