What’s worse than fighting for your life against COVID-19 in a hospital? Fighting that battle at home. With the infection curve finally flattening, for now, and what attention is being paid to the sick concentrated on those in hospitals, it’s easy to forget: people with no insurance, or who are undocumented and fear entering the system, or just don’t know to seek care, are sick at home.
Not many, relatively. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, only 4 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the state occur in private homes. Still, that’s some 200 deaths since February. Thousands more are being cared for, not by trained professionals, but family members.
They can’t be counted, but they can be helped.
For them, Francisca Garcia, a critical care nurse who heads the COVID unit at Holy Cross Hospital, has an important piece of advice: lay on your stomach.
“For the patients who are awake and alert and able to follow directions, we ask them to lay on their stomach,” she said. “Laying on their stomach helps with lung capacity, increases oxygenation. It’s almost a little mini-miracle when we have patients prone.”
She said this has become widespread practice.
“In the ICU, we’ve been doing this for many, many years. Patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome, an acute phase patients’ lungs go into when they’re very sick. We’ve been doing this for 25 years. With COVID, nurses and doctors and hospitals all over have started trying it.”
Also, she said, drink lots of water.
Garcia grew up in Little Village, and said immigrant communities can be both fertile ground for the pandemic to spread, and a population reluctant to seek professional medical care once it does.