As Director of the Wound Care Center & Hyperbaric Medicine Program at West Suburban Medical Center, Brad Riesterer, MBA-HCM, understands the important role of compassion in treating critically ill patients. In a reversal of roles this past March, he never expected to find himself in dire need of this compassion when his health took a drastic turn for the worse due to COVID-19. Just as Chicago area hospitals were gearing up for the pandemic, Brad was facing the fight of his life. While the other hospital (not West Suburban) provided the medical care needed, the critical missing component to his care was human empathy and compassionate support.
“In late March I was diagnosed with COVID-19 and was critically ill. I spent an entire week in another hospital. The whole time I was there I felt lost and dejected. I realized that COVID-positive patients are going through a very traumatic time, not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well, and that they need to be treated with great care and respect,” said Brad.
As part of his recovery from COVID-19, Brad was inspired to reach out and support others that have gone through similar experiences. As a seasoned healthcare worker and COVID survivor, he now provides a solid sounding board for other survivors to openly discuss their traumatic experiences and offers gentle support.
“Knowing you can talk to someone who has been through what you’ve gone through is so important. Survivors find comfort in knowing they’re not alone. Family and friends are a great help but they don’t quite know what it feels like,” confided Brad. “COVID survivors experience fear of the unknown, anxiety over being separated from loved ones, and guilt about survival.”
For the past few weeks Brad has been providing support one-on-one through phone calls and texting. Survivors hear of the support group mainly through word of mouth. Right now Brad is leaving session times up to the people he has been supporting. “It’s not unusual for me to receive a call or text at 8 pm or 9 pm,” stated Brad. His goal is to establish a regular schedule and move to a group setting through a FaceBook group, Zoom, or other platform. Expansion of the group will help members better support one another.
Colleen Morley, DNP, RN, CCM, Director of Case Management at West Suburban Medical Center, is helping Brad develop the program by connecting him with non-profit and mental health organizations that can offer advice about running online group sessions and access speakers and mental health professionals. Once Brad moves his support to an online platform, the case management team will educate and encourage the COVID survivors they discharge to participate in the group.
When asked about what inspires him most about providing support to COVID survivors, Brad simply states that it is all about helping with the healing process. He understands what other COVID survivors have gone through.
Brad is bringing compassion to healing.