COVINGTON, Ga.— Carli Cuendet is the director of EMS Operations at Piedmont Newton Hospital. She’s worked at Piedmont Newton EMS since May 1998 and has held her current title since July 2015. Patrick Miller is a paramedic at Piedmont Newton, where he’s worked since June 1996.
Together, they’re packing more than 40 years worth of experience working along the frontlines and providing the citizens of Newton County with top-notch care. They recently spoke with The Covington News to share their perspective on the global pandemic and the impact it’s had on the health care industry.
When asked to compare the first four months of 2020 to the previous 23 years he spent working at Piedmont, Miller searched for the right adjective before settling on “unique.”
“It’s been a huge change in our lives. Things that I guess we never thought we’d ever encounter,” he said. “We’ve always utilized PPE [personal protective equipment] but it’s typically just wearing gloves, things like that. We didn’t have to don a mask for every patient that we encounter, which is what we’re doing now.”
Health care workers are not only preaching the importance of social distancing and protective gear, but they’re practicing it on a daily basis.
“We are learning how to protect ourselves differently each and every day,” Cuendet said. “Keeping a six-to-eight-foot distance if at all possible until we can get the appropriate questions answered. ‘Do you have a cough? Do you have a cold? Do you have a fever?’”
This isn’t the first time Cuendet and Miller have had to deal with a viral outbreak. They both remember the fallout from H1N1 and SARS, among others, but agree that the difference with COVID-19 is the lack of information we have about the novel virus at this point in time.
“There’s still a lot of unknown,” Cuendet noted, “and that’s the scary part.”
“We really didn’t have this sense of we’re going to come in contact with a SARS patient. You know, like it might happen, but it’s unlikely. That was kind of our attitude. Whether that was right or wrong, that was kind of our attitude,” he recalled. “Now, every day we are anticipating coming in contact with someone who has been exposed to COVID-19. We’re really taking it, as a level of seriousness, much higher.”
But they both know they still have a job to do. They’re still reporting to car accidents, to people suffering cardiac issues, to people with severe illnesses.
The staff at Piedmont Newton want the citizens of Newton County to know that they are not alone in this battle. In spite of the uncertain times, the local health care professionals are committed to treating patients and providing them with around-the-clock service to ensure their safety and well-being.
“We are open for business. We are here 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We’re even here when the mail service is not here. Rain, sleet or snow, it’s not going to stop us,” Cuendet said. “We are here, we’re going to provide a service and we’re going to do the best that we can for every citizen that we incur.”
The local citizens have taken notice of the care Piedmont Newton has provided during these trying times, and they’ve made an effort to give back.
“Our community has reached out and support us and wrapped their arms around us,” Cuendet said. “Bradley’s BBQ has provided meals for us. Covington United Methodist Church has provided meals for us. It’s just amazing, the outpour from the community. It’s absolutely phenomenal.”
Miller echoed his coworker’s sentiments.
“I’m a Newton County resident myself — my family and I have lived out here for almost 27 years — and I feel extremely blessed to be a part of this community the way they’ve come together,” Miller said.
He cited numerous examples of the gratitude he and his fellow health care workers have received for their work along the frontlines. From having cloth masks sewn for them, to having owners of local businesses thank them for their efforts, to having local religious leaders offering to pray from them — there’s been no shortage of support from the Newton County community.
“It just really makes us feel good,” Miller added. “We really appreciate all of that.”
On Friday, May 1, the statewide shelter-in-place order expired for most Georgians. As the state slowly reopens and people search for a return to normalcy, the staff at Piedmont Newton urge people to continue making their personal health — as well as the health of everyone they may come into contact with — their top priority.
“Stay safe, stay healthy and continue distancing,” Cuendet said. “And definitely wash your hands. Follow the basic hygiene that your mother, your grandmother, your parents always shared with you. That’s always the best practice.”