Smoky Sirloin Steak with Tomato Hummus

COVID-19 Patient Caretaker and Northeast Team Beef Member Shares Her Story

C. Brown | April 21, 2020

Carole stevenson

COVID-19 Patient Caretaker and Northeast Team Beef Member Shares Her Story  

Most of us have not experienced something that has had such a pervasive impact on our lives, in our communities and the entire globe.  For us today, the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our lives in countless ways.  While we’re all experiencing some level of economic disruption, not all of us are experiencing the first-hand health implications of the virus.  

Carole Stevenson of Edgewater, NJ, is literally on the frontlines of COVID-19 patient care, working in three different hospitals as a physician assistant.  The hospitals she works in are just a stone throw west of New York City, in northern New Jersey.  Carole can see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island when she looks out the window from the hospital.  

Carole has been a Northeast Team Beef member since the inception of the program and has run numerous races proudly advocating for the many benefits of beef in the diet of an athlete.  Carole’s “Story of Strength” not only reveals how she fuels her body for long distance running, but also how she fuels her long and grueling days caring for COVID-19 patients.

With Carole’s permission, we’re sharing a lengthy quote from her recent member profile.

I work as a physician assistant (PA) at three hospitals (one full time, two others “per diem” which is as needed).  My primary job covers multiple disciplines: general surgery, trauma, surgical Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and neurosurgery.  At the other two hospitals, I work in the Emergency Room. On a typical day, I manage surgical and trauma patients on the medical and surgery floors and a variety of surgical (ortho, vascular, plastics, general surgery, and trauma) patients in the ICU. As a PA, I can order tests and medications and do procedures such as laceration repairs and insertion of dialysis catheters. Since COVID-19 has run rampant, the already high patient census has exploded, and the surgical team is now primarily caring for COVID-19 patients in the ICU and the floor PA is managing more stable COVID-19 patients who are admitted to medicine. 

 It is a whole new world and it’s been an adjustment to wear N95 masks the entire 12-13 hour shift (they rub your nose and ears raw, make breathing difficult and leave indentations on your face) in addition to the rest of the hazard gear that’s more easily donned (hats, gowns, goggles, gloves). Our ICUs are overflowing with COVID-19 patients, every person in the ICU is on a ventilator and in critical condition, many with failing kidneys and in need of dialysis.  The hospital feels and looks like a war zone. The operator is overhead paging staff to respond to cardiac arrests, decompensating patients, and other emergencies on a way-too-frequent basis. The daily death toll is so high, the area hospitals (including all 3 where I work) are using refrigerated trucks to store the bodies. 

 It is more stressful than normal, but the outpouring of support from the community keeps us going. We get food deliveries (hot meals, cookies, granola bars, breakfast sandwiches, coffee) on a regular basis.  Sometimes we get to eat while the meals are still hot, other times we’re eating right before we drive home. Cards and notes and posters (from girl scouts, kids in the community, and various interest groups) are posted throughout the hospital – the lobby, the ICU, the locker rooms – to remind us that we are not alone in this fight. 

The most heart-wrenching part of this pandemic is the solitude.  Patients are not allowed visitors for both their and the visitor’s health’s sake; family can’t hold their loved one’s hand, stroke their hair, and tell them they love them in person. If they’re lucky, they will be able to do so over Facetime. Human touch and speech (especially from a person who is very close) is so important in healing, I can’t help but feel that patients might improve sooner if they weren’t alone in their rooms except for healthcare providers. It’s a surreal time and I hope that this “new normal” doesn’t last too long. 

 I miss running with my friends and with thousands of strangers who become running buddies (at large races). My husband has been wonderful; he’s really stepped up and helped around the house in order to reduce my stress level upon arriving home. He ensures that a hot meal is ready when I get out of the shower after work and is supportive of my desire to incorporate lean beef as an integral part of my diet.  It also helps him keep within his calorie-count to maintain his weight after losing almost 150 lbs.  He really is taking to heart the “taking care of the caretaker” role. 

Carole, we are so deeply appreciative of you and the countless other men and women working tirelessly to care for those struggling the most with COVID-19.  We are honored to have you on our team! 

It takes a physically strong person to perform the daily work of a hospital physician assistant, and as we can attest to with Carole, it also takes a lot of motivation, courage and humor.  Carole is usually one of the first team members to post a comical comment or race photo on the team Facebook page.  Carole shares her feedback on why she is proud to represent the value of beef in her diet.

First and foremost, beef is delicious. I love a good filet and as an all-American girl, I also love cheeseburgers. And spaghetti with meat sauce… and chili… and… I could go on and on. Beef is rich in protein and nutrient-dense, so one doesn’t need to consume a lot in order to meet our bodies’ needs. When calories count, especially while training for a half or full marathon, lean beef is an important part of one’s diet. I enjoy being a part of Northeast Team Beef so I can learn more about modern practices of sustainably raising beef and recipe sharing.   I also enjoy camaraderie with fellow beef-loving runners. 

When asked what keeps her motivated to run, she comments:

I run because I enjoy the outdoors and exploring nature. The “dreadmill” is torture; I’d rather run in the cold and wind (and I don’t like the cold; again, who am I??). I also run to keep my weight in check.  As I get older, it takes (entirely too much) more effort not to gain weight. Cross training is really fun and I have gotten into High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) classes, barre classes, and doing strength exercises with my mace. My husband made significant life changes and lost almost 150 pounds in one year (without surgery!). His continued determination to sustain his new physique and lifestyle also helps keep me in-check. He’s been diligent in doing his “prison workout” (push-ups, lunges, burpees, etc.) on a consistent basis at home, sometimes between conference calls while he works. Plus, it’s fun for us to do mace exercises together. I’m glad that our food choices align much better now and we can support each other with a healthy diet and consistent exercise. It’s a bonus that he loves beef as much as I do! 

Carole has some fantastic running-related goals.  One of which is to run the Abbott World Marathon Majors (a series of six of the largest and most renowned races in the world.  Regarding the World Marathon Majors, she shares,

I’m down two (The 2017 New York City Marathon and the 2019 Chicago Marathon).  Possibly the London Marathon this year (via charity, if it is held, and in memory of my dear friend Abigail).  Just three to go (The Berlin, Tokyo, and Boston Marathons). 

Carole, we’re so grateful you shared your experience thus far caring for COVID-19 patients as a part of your “Story of Strength.”  Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your colleagues.  Learn more about the 35 members of the Northeast Team Beef program, including Carole, by viewing the member library and our Stories of Strength page. 

Stay tuned to the Northeast Beef Promo Facebook and Instagram pages to catch up on how the Northeast region is actively seeking to promote beef. 

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