Anahiz Correa remembers the first time COVID became real.
It was early March of 2021. A shuttle bus driver from LAX arrived at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital (MLKCH) Emergency Department complaining of symptoms similar to a strange new virus.
The hospital’s clinical staff had trained for weeks for this moment and yet it was still unnerving. Doctors and nurses congregated outside the glass paneled doorway to the patient’s isolation room, discussing safety protocols as they carefully donned isolation robes, gloves, and thick N-95 face masks.
Anahiz is an Intensive Care Unit Nurse Manager in the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) where she leads a team of nurses. “Seeing my nurse in the full PPE (personal protective equipment) and the patient being unsure and looking around, I thought to myself: This is real. This is not just some flu,” Anahiz recalls. “At that moment we all got a little nervous.”
It was the start of the most challenging period of patient care ever faced by the five-year-old hospital. In March of 2021, one of the busiest Emergency Departments in all of Los Angeles transformed into a highly-efficient COVID treatment center. Huge triage tents rose outside the ED doors. MedSurg/Tele rooms on the 5th floor were repurposed into low-flow isolation rooms. The ICU doubled in size.