Kurt Papenfus is the only full-time emergency room physician at a hospital in Cheyenne Wells, Colo. His disease is a test case for how the pandemic is impacting the vulnerable rural healthcare system.
Dr. Kurt Papenfus.
Dr. Kurt Papenfus.
Kurt Papenfus is the only full-time emergency clinic physician at a healthcare facility in Cheyenne Wells, Colo. His health problem is a test case for how the pandemic is impacting the vulnerable rural health care system.
Dr. Kurt Papenfus.
Kurt Papenfus, a physician in the village of Cheyenne Wells, Colo., began to feel sick around Halloween. He developed a frightening cough, digestive tract signs and a headache. In the middle of a pandemic, the news that he had actually COVID-19 wasn’t unexpected, however Papenfus’ health problem would have consequences far beyond his own health.
Papenfus is the only full-time emergency clinic medical professional in the town of 900, not far from the Kansas line.
” I’m chief of personnel and medical director of everything at Keefe Memorial Health Center currently in Cheyenne County, Colo.,” he stated.
Just 62 people in the county have actually been detected with COVID-19, according to Colorado’s coronavirus information website
With Papenfus sick, the health center rushed to find a replacement. As coronavirus cases in rural Colorado, and the Eastern Plains particularly, rise to extraordinary levels, Papenfus’ disease is a test case for how the pandemic is affecting the delicate rural healthcare system.
” He is the primary person. And it is a very large difficulty,” stated Stella Worley, CEO of the health center.
If she could not discover someone to complete while he was sick, Worley might need to divert trauma and emergency situation patients nearly 40 miles north to Burlington.
” Time is life often,” she said. “And that is not something you ever want to do.”
” The ‘rona monster is a very nasty monster”
As deaths from the coronavirus have actually gone beyond 250,00 0 in the U.S., new data show the pandemic has actually been particularly lethal in rural areas– it’s taking lives in those locations at a rate supposedly nearly 3.5 times higher than in city communities.
Papenfus, a dynamic 63- year-old, was discharged after a nine-day remain at St. Joseph’s Healthcare facility in Denver, and he aspired to sound the alarm about the disease he calls the ‘rona.
” The ‘rona beast is an extremely nasty beast, and it is not fun. It has an extremely mean mood. It likes a fight, and it loves to keep following you,” Papenfus stated.
He isn’t sure where he chose it up however believes it might have been on a trip east in October. He stated he was meticulous on the plane, being in the front, last on, to begin with. However on landing at Denver International Airport, Papenfus boarded the congested train to the terminal, and quickly alarm bells went off in his head.
” There are individuals actually like inches from me, and we’re all stuffed like sardines in this train,” Papenfus said. “And I’m going, ‘Oh my God, I remain in a superspreader occasion right now.’ “
An airport spokesperson declined to comment about Papenfus’ experience.
A week later on, the symptoms hit. He evaluated favorable and chose to drive himself the 3 hours to the hospital in Denver. “I’m not going to let anybody get in this car with me and get COVID, because I don’t wish to offer any person the ‘rona,” he said. County sheriff’s deputies followed his vehicle to ensure he made it.
Once in the medical facility, chest X-rays exposed he ‘d established pneumonia.
” Dude, I didn’t get a tap on the shoulder by ‘rona, I got a huge viral load,” he texted a press reporter, sending out pictures of his chest scans that program large, nontransparent, white areas of his lung. Simply a week earlier, his chest X-ray was normal, he said.
Back in Cheyenne Wells, Dr. Christine Connolly got a few of Papenfus’ shifts, although she had to drive 10 hours each way from Fort Worth, Texas, to do it. She stated the hospital personnel is spread out thin already.
” It’s not just the doctors, it’s the nurses, you understand. It’s difficult to get extra nurses,” she said. “There’s not a great deal of spares of anything out that far.”
Besides himself, another 6 staff members– out of a personnel of 62 at Keefe Memorial– also recently got a positive test, Papenfus said.
Hospitals on the Plains typically send their sickest clients to bigger medical facilities in Denver and Colorado Springs. But with a lot of individuals around the area getting ill, Connolly is getting concerned healthcare facilities might be overwhelmed. Healthcare leaders produced a new command system to move patients around the state to make more space, however Connolly said there is a limitation.
” It threatens when the healthcare facilities in the cities fill up, and when it becomes an issue for us to send,” she said.
” Bank burglars wear masks out there”
The effect of Papenfus’ lack stretches across the Eastern Plains. He normally worked shifts an hour to the northwest, at Lincoln Community Healthcare Facility in Hugo. Its CEO, Kevin Stansbury, said the town mostly evaded the spring rise and his center could take in recuperating COVID-19 patients from Colorado’s cities. Now, Stansbury said the infection is reaching places such as Lincoln County, population 5,700 It has had 144 cases, according to state information, and neighboring Package Carson has actually had301 Crowley County to the south, which is house to a privately managed state jail, has had 1,239 cases. It is far and away the No. 1 most affected county per capita in the state.
” So those numbers are big,” Stansbury stated. He said since mid-November about a half-dozen health center staffers had tested positive for the infection; they believe it’s unrelated to Papenfus’ case.
Lincoln Community Medical facility is prepared as soon as again to take recuperating patients. Finances in rural healthcare are always tight, and accepting new patients would assist.
” This is an extraordinary scenario that we find ourselves in right now,” Slabach stated.
The county’s emergency management director, the regional health center CEO and more than 50 medical personnel tested favorable.
Papenfus fretted about his house county and its odds of combating off the infection.
Because being launched from the health center, Papenfus has actually had a rocky healing. His partner, Joanne, drove him back to Cheyenne Wells, using an N95 mask and gloves, while he rode in the back on oxygen, coughing through the three-hour drive.
As soon as back in your home, Papenfus hunkered down, with the periodic trip outside to socialize with his animal falcon.
But a week after going house, he began having nightly fevers. He had a CT scan done at Keefe Memorial, the medical facility where he works. It revealed pneumonia in his lungs, so he went back to Denver, getting readmitted at St. Joseph’s Healthcare facility. This time, Papenfus showed up via ambulance.
Finding a replacement for Papenfus at Keefe has actually been hard. The medical facility is dealing with services that provide substitute physicians, but these days, with the coronavirus roaring throughout the country, the competitors is fierce.
” They’re truly rushing to get coverage,” Papenfus texted from his healthcare facility bed. “Whole county can’t await my return however this illness has actually truly taken me down.”
He said he was now at Day 35 from his first symptoms, depending on his health center bed in Denver, “wondering when I’ll ever get back.” Papenfus kept in mind that COVID-19 has impacted his critical thinking and that he ‘d need to be cleared cognitively to go back to work. He said he understands he won’t have the physical endurance to return to complete task “for a while, if ever.”