Methodist Children’s Home has one of its own on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tenika lived at MCH for four years and graduated from Waco High School in 2001. Today she is a mother of two boys, ages 13 and 4, and spends her nights working as a nurse in the neuro-intensive care unit at a hospital in Houston. She has witnessed firsthand how the coronavirus impacts the health of those infected.
Tenika is responsible for two COVID-19 patients at a time, along with her other patients. When dealing with COVID-19 patients, nurses wear full personal protective equipment before entering the room, where they spend an hour or more administering medication, turning the patient to encourage their lungs to function better, and making sure they have what they need. Nurses are limited in the number of times they can enter a room due to the high risk of contamination.
Tenika has had patients of all ages and has seen several lose their battle to the virus. She said the hardest part has been witnessing patients fight on their own, sometimes unsuccessfully, since visitors are restricted.
Tenika said treating COVID-19 patients “has taught me patience and it has taught me so much more about our bodies. Even when we want to give up, our bodies continue to fight. I’ve seen patients who have been down the whole time suddenly take a breath by themselves or go against the ventilator – which is a good sign because that means they are trying to breathe on their own. It gives me chill bumps.”
“Every time we see a patient leave that was COVID-positive we tear up because of where they were a couple of days before,” she added. “It is emotionally tiring.”
Tenika and other healthcare staff working with COVID-19 patients must be tested frequently. She said she had a scare early on before people knew the severity of the pandemic. She had spent her four-night shift without a face covering or other protective gear treating a patient recovering from a spinal procedure. He was running a fever and coughing and later tested positive for COVID-19. As a result Tenika had to self-quarantine away from her children for 14 days.
“It was extremely scary,” she said. “My mom came over to care for the kids and I could hear my 4-year old at the door saying, ‘Mommy I want a huggie.’ It was heartbreaking.”
Tenika takes extra precautions after her shift by changing clothes and shoes in her garage before entering her home.
“I think it is important for people to understand that COVID-19 is real and we are doing the best we can to get this disease under control,” she said. “We are risking every day.”
Tenika appreciates the support shown for healthcare workers and urges people to take precautions and comply with recommendations to wear face coverings in public and avoid large gatherings.
“I want everyone to do what they can to keep themselves and others safe,” she said. “You never know what the person next to you has.”
Her experiences the past few months also inspired her to continue her education. Although she already holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, she decided to pursue a master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner.
“After seeing everything that happened with COVID-19, I wanted to do more,” Tenika said. “There’s so much that nurses do already – we are in it; we are dedicated and very hardworking when it comes to the patients. But seeing how the community reacted and continues to react, I felt like I could be more of an advocate if I obtained a master’s degree.”
Tenika was awarded the Albaugh Scholarship from MCH for the 2020-21 academic year, a scholarship given to the top-performing students served through the Transition Services program.
Tenika remembers her time on campus fondly. She said she had her ups and downs while growing up but learned the true meaning of family through the bond she developed with peers and staff members at MCH.
“In our family as children we weren’t really allowed to discuss our emotions or things we were going through,” Tenika said. “It was great being in the MCH environment, where we could have group time and talk about what was going on with us. It taught me structure and positive habits I still use today. MCH taught me growth and independence, and it got me prepared for living on my own.”