LOWELL (CBS) - National Guard members assigned to Massachusetts hospitals during the pandemic are completing their missions. At a time when just about every hospital was overwhelmed with COVID patients, Guard members stepped up, switched gears and played such a critical role.
It's been a complete 180 for Army SPC Stephen Prochniak, helping to fill in the gaps at Lowell General hospital during the omicron surge. He just wrapped up a three-month mission.
"Nurses needed that extra set of hands to do the stuff like stocking carts, turning over rooms - the things that we could do so they could focus on giving patients the best care they could," said Prochniak.
When a patient went down with no pulse steps from him, he used the medical skills he had to save a life.
"I was asked by one of the doctors if I knew CPR," Prochniak said. "I gave compressions for six minutes in several shifts, and on the last shift, the doctor said check for a pulse, and when I brought my hands up, lo and behold the man had a pulse."
From cleaning rooms, to delivering patients their meals, Lowell General Chief Nurse Executive Cece Lynch says the guardsmen were invaluable, especially when delta and omicron hit.
"We also had a significant number of staff who were out with COVID themselves," Lynch said. "At one point it was close to 300 staff members across the organization, so even having eight additional pairs of hands was incredibly helpful."
PFC Felicia Alicea was a hairdresser before joining the National Guard two years ago.
Her latest mission has her behind the wheel of an ambulance, transporting patients to the hospital. The most fulfilling assignment, Alicea says, has been helping with COVID vaccinations.
"When signing up for the Guard you don't always think you will be doing these kinds of things, but when you get to broaden your view and use all these different skills it comes full circle," Alicea said.
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