Cedars-Sinai staff reflects on a year of fighting pandemic

Days in lockdown seemed to linger, yet, we witnessed the rapid arrival of treatments and vaccines. For Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, it was a marathon riddled with stops and starts.

Video Transcript

- So we are marking a full year on lockdown for the COVID pandemic. One year ago today, things were being shut down left and right. On this date, March 12, of last year, theme parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios announced that they would be closing. Major League Baseball postponed the start of the season. The NHL suspended the hockey season. And the March Madness basketball tournament was canceled.

In Hollywood, "Hamilton" was canceled at the Pantages Theater on what was supposed to be opening night. And the headline to all of this? Treating COVID patients over the past year has been extremely challenging for hospitals. But we've also witnessed some amazing breakthroughs, including the rapid arrival of treatments and vaccines. For one local hospital, it was a marathon riddled with sprints. Circle of Health reporter Denise Dador takes us back.

DENISE DADOR: 12 months seemed to last forever, yet everything happened so fast.

LASHONE MAYS: I just recall thinking, this is bad. This is really, really bad.

DENISE DADOR: With the first wave sweeping the country, the staff at Cedars-Sinai felt prepared. But the patient surge plunged them into uncharted waters.

PETER CHEN: We started getting so many patients, we had to figure out how to put these patients into the hospital, and where to put them.

DENISE DADOR: Pulmonary and critical care director Dr. Peter Chen says, the biggest challenge was how to defeat an enemy unknown.

PETER CHEN: We really had no medicines at that time for these patients.

DENISE DADOR: In bed after bed, doctors hoped proning would oxygenate defeated lungs.

LASHONE MAYS: To walk through and to see the backs of people's heads is a very eerie feeling.

DENISE DADOR: Respiratory therapist LaShone Mays and her team used all their training and tools to open ravaged airways. With ICU staff overwhelmed, it was all hands on deck.

PETER CHEN: People that normally weren't doing viral or respiratory diseases would come in and join in the fight.

DENISE DADOR: Early success signaled hope. Dr. Chen and his research partners were one of the first to study remdesivir, and made great strides in testing monoclonal antibodies.

PETER CHEN: We really focused hard on enrolling patients for that trial, because we had a lot of faith that this actually had a lot of good science behind it.

DENISE DADOR: Cedars-Sinai scientists were also the first to discover, locally, the virus had changed.

PETER CHEN: We found that the CAL20 variant that was populating and really growing through our communities.

DENISE DADOR: By the second surge, frontline workers discovered no one treatment strategy delivered the same results in every patient. If the virus didn't play by the rules, neither would they.

LASHONE MAYS: Sometimes you had to. Yes, we've tried all of this, and this doesn't really seem to be working, what if we try this?

DENISE DADOR: Exhaustion set in. Caregivers sat silent in break rooms. Reaching out is how LaShone cared for her co-workers.

LASHONE MAYS: Mostly validating and helping them understand that what they feel is appropriate.

DENISE DADOR: Then, the first vaccines were delivered to Cedars-Sinai. With it, a morale boost to colleagues who missed each other's company.

LASHONE MAYS: And now that we can get back to more of that, is definitely one of the greatest benefits from the vaccine.

DENISE DADOR: Looking back, the biggest lesson learned? With collaboration, all things are possible.

PETER CHEN: If you think about how quickly we've come together to develop these medications and to develop vaccinations, it was quite a feat.