On frontlines of pandemic, longtime St. Elizabeth nurse shares 'sobering' experience

Posted at 9:56 PM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 21:56:17-04

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ERLANGER, Ky. -- Clinical Nurse Terry Foster has seen a lot in 45 years working to save lives at St. Elizabeth.

He started with the hospital network in 1975, and he worked the night of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire that claimed 165 lives in 1977.

He was on duty to treat patients from the 1983 Air Canada plane crash at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

He remembers the onslaught of patients he treated who lived with HIV and AIDS. Later, he and other St. E medical staff faced concerns with H1N1 swine flu and the Ebola outbreak in the early 2010s.

But even with those experiences under his belt, Foster said he is dealing with things he’s never seen before, now that the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak has hit Northern Kentucky.

“With all of those, I have never seen anything like what I've seen with COVID-19, especially in the change in practice and the number of people potentially affecting,” Foster said.

Just like his peers across the country, fighting the pandemic in New York and New Jersey, Foster has been there for his patients with COVID-19.

“Yes, some of them are fairly sick,” he said.

And he knows the virus doesn’t discriminate -- it’s already sickened coworkers and many medical personnel around the globe.

“It’s sobering,” he said. “And yes, it scares me.”

The situation is a reminder of what can happen when medical professionals put themselves in harm’s way, even when taking extraordinary PPE precautions.

Foster says he worries about family members who joined him in this profession, including his daughter. They know it could get worse before it gets better.

Health experts still anticipate a surge in U.S. cases, and Foster says he isn’t sure if we’re in the calm before the storm.

“We’re ready, but I really don’t know,” he said. “Wish I did.”