Local Woman Triumphs Over COVID-19
Pictured: Joanie Johnson and Dr. Steven Hartberg at her follow up checkup appointment following her COVID-19 hospitalization.

After experiencing symptoms, Joan Johnson of Windom, MN, visited the Windom Area Health Emergency Department and received a diagnosis of COVID-19 and pneumonia. 

“I just thought, ‘Wow.’  I was just so glad to be in the hospital and getting the help I needed.”

The First Signs

When she started experiencing some trouble breathing, Joan (known as Joanie to friends), visited the Emergency Department at Windom Area Health (WAH).  “The first time I came to the ER, I knew that I had COVID-19 and found out that I had pneumonia,” she explained.  Staff gave her guidance to manage her symptoms at home, including a nebulizer for her pneumonia and rehydration practices to follow to address issues with dehydration.

Joanie came home and followed the instructions she had received, but her breathing was getting progressively worse and she found herself eating and drinking less and less.  “I’d come home and I could not eat or drink what I should.  I mean Don (Joanie’s husband) said I ate like a bird – not even a bird – and that’s just not like me.”  She had done her best on her own, but she was not getting any.

Trouble Breathing

Then, one evening, Joanie woke up and quickly realized she was having difficulty breathing.  “We came out into the living room and I said, ‘Don, you have to call the emergency room.  I really am having trouble breathing.’  And we went right away.”

When they got to the Emergency Department, Joanie was experiencing AFib (atrial fibrillation), where her heartbeat was irregular and rapid.  “I think my heart rate was up to 190 at one point,” she added, “but they took such good care of me.  I wasn’t scared or anything.  I knew that I was there and they got [my heart rate] down.” 

Pictured Left to Right: Rachael Fast and Becky Runkle, Windom Area Health RN’s in personal protective equipment (PPE) required when interacting with COVID-19 positive patients.

Staying Close to Home

As a part of her care in the emergency room, staff took Joanie to get a cat scan to check for blood clots.  “I was very blessed that I did not ever have [them].”  Soon after, Dr. Steven Hartberg of the Hartberg Medical Clinic, Joanie’s primary care provider, visited with her and told her that she would be able to stay in Windom for her inpatient stay and treatment.  “I appreciated being able to stay at the hospital and not be transferred to Sioux Falls.”

She was given medication for both COVID-19 and her heart rate and was set up with IVs to treat her dehydration.  Over the next four days, she improved and was ready to go home.  “From the time I entered the hospital until the time I left, everyone that I interacted with was very professional, caring, and very nice.  Everyone knew their jobs and they did them well.”

“I wouldn’t have gotten any better care anywhere else.  I know that.”

COVID-19 Ready

When caring for COVID-19 patients at WAH, staff take appropriate measures to don (put on) their personal protective equipment (PPE).  This ensures their own safety as well as the safety of the patients they are caring for.  The nurses closely monitor COVID-19 positive patients to ensure they are improving and also watch for signs of any worsening symptoms to ensure the patient receives an appropriate level of care. 

Due to the nature of COVID-19, things are constantly changing and staff continue to adapt and learn as new recommendations are provided by public health officials.  New medications are being approved for usage that will help patients who have COVID-19.  For positive patients that are admitted into the hospital, the medication they receive is Remdesivir.  Other medications that have been approved for use that are administered at WAH include: Regeneron and Bamlanivimab (commonly called Bam).  These two medications are given to COVID-19 patients that are outpatient whose symptoms have started within the last 10 days and are at higher risk for developing a severe case of COVID-19 and potentially requiring hospitalization.

“When it comes to caring for COVID 19 positive patients the staff is ready,” says Kelsey Andrews, Director of Nursing, “The nursing staff we have working at WAH are willing to do whatever it takes to provide high quality care to the patients we serve.”

Pictured Left to Right: Don (husband) and Joanie Johnson

On the Road to Recovery

Now, Joanie is getting better every day.  It has been a slow process of recovery, but she is returning to her normal activities and hobbies.  One that she is looking forward to getting back into is making cards for her friends and family.  “I’ll be glad to get back to that.  This has really taken a lot out of me.  I’ll do a couple of things and then I’ll have to stop.”  But she says that she is more than happy with her progress.  “All I care is that I’m getting better and I’m not the way I was!”

“I lucked out more than some people have, you know.  I know I really did luck out that way.  And once I got the help that I needed, I started getting better.”  She added, “I always tell people, you know, we’re lucky we have a hospital like this in Windom.  For a town this size – most people don’t have the system we do here and we’re very, very fortunate for this.” 

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