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After a 20-day hospital stay: Best wishes Orlando!

May 04, 2020

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WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital staff celebrate with Orlando Sanmartin upon his discharge from a 20-day hospital stay, after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital staff celebrate with Orlando Sanmartin upon his discharge from a 20-day hospital stay, after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

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 with COVID-19.

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 my life.”

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 nurse.

“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.”