For 20 days, a team of nurses, respiratory technicians,
physicians and others cared for Nester Sanmartin at WellSpan Ephrata Community
Hospital, where he was in respiratory failure in intensive care, critically ill
Their faces were covered in masks and their bodies were
swathed in personal protective gear as the group interacted with the
77-year-old Ephrata man, whose nickname is “Orlando.”
Sanmartin’s fondest wish when he was discharged: to
actually see the faces of the people who did, as he said, an “excellent job for
Before he recently went home, Sanmartin’s care team
presented him with book of photos of their smiling faces, without masks. They
also gave him a poster that they all signed.
During his hospital stay, Sanmartin received advanced
breathing treatments and high-flow oxygen therapy. Infectious disease
physicians were involved in his treatment, as were a wide variety of other
clinicians including occupational therapists, physical therapists and dietitians.
“He was as sick as sick could be,” said Michael Le, M.D.,
a hospitalist at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital who cared for Sanmartin.
Sanmartin was so gravely ill that he spent two stints in
the intensive care unit.
“But every time I asked him how he was feeling, his
answer always was ‘I am great,’ “ said Alionso Avril, pulmonary services team
leader. “He was calm and optimistic throughout the process.”
Diana Garcia, a nurse who cared for Sanmartin, said that,
despite his outward cheer, Sanmartin shared with her that he was at the lowest
point of his life in the hospital. He told her he leaned on his faith and the
care others were showing him.
“He explained a passage in the Bible about people with
big hearts who take care of others,” Garcia said. “He was trying to see the
positive outcome of the situation he was in.”
When staff told Sanmartin he was being discharged from
the hospital, Sanmartin’s eyes filled with tears, Le said. He told the staff he
would miss seeing “mis amigos,” his friends, and the “buena gente,” the good
people who cared for him.
To celebrate, the staff gave him silly glasses and
Hawaiian leis to wear when he left his room. And when the elevator doors opened
on the ground floor, he was greeted by an explosion of cheering from staff who
lined the hospital’s Health Pavilion. It was a team celebration, uniting the
people who walked beside Sanmartin during the hospital as he took his final
trip out the door.
“The most rewarding thing for me was being able to see
the improvements day by day and being able to discharge him back home, knowing
we did everything to be able to get him there,” said Garialdy Lee, an ICU
“Thank you! Thank you! I love you!” Sanmartin said, his
voice emotional as the team clapped and he clapped in delight too. “I am
feeling so happy. I want to thank you for everybody here in the hospital I love
you, everybody. … I believe you did a good, excellent job for my life.”
Said Le: “It was a moment of WHY all of us practice
medicine. It’s sacred. It’s a calling. It’s hope.”