Danielle Kaprielian, PT, DPT, was just getting settled in as a new physical therapist at the Brigham’s main campus earlier this year when she was temporarily relocated to Boston Hope in April to care for COVID-19 patients.
“Suddenly, my co-workers consisted of Brigham, MGH and Spaulding staff, as well as physical and occupational therapists from the U.S. Army. I thought getting familiar with new staff from different workplaces was going to take some time and be challenging, but we seemed to mesh naturally,” said Kaprielian, who began at the Brigham in January. “I’m extremely grateful for my experience at Boston Hope, for the people I met, the friends I made and the hope I was able to help bring to people during this crisis.”
Boston Hope opened in April as a 1,000-bed medical center for patients recovering from COVID-19 and unsheltered individuals infected with the virus. Built at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center within a week, Boston Hope was led by Brigadier General (ret.) Jack Hammond, with Mass General Brigham leaders overseeing most clinical operations and working in partnership with Boston Health Care for the Homeless, the Baker Administration, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office and regional hospitals.
Kaprielian was one of 37 members of the Brigham Rehabilitation Services department who served at Boston Hope through its closure in June. This included physical therapists, occupational therapists and a speech therapist who provided rehabilitation services to patients, as well as nine physical therapists who helped to pre-screen patients prior to admission to determine if they would benefit from the services provided at Boston Hope.
“As the daughter of a nurse, I have always seen how dedicated and caring health care providers can be, but I was so impressed with how all of my colleagues handled this new crisis — always willing to adapt to the ever-changing environments and to step up to take on new roles in order to help their patients,” said Rachel Laufer, PT, DPT, OCS. “We immediately became a team.”
Helping Patients to Regain Strength and Ability
The physical therapy staff worked closely together to offer patients individual therapy sessions, walking programs and exercise groups.
“We created group exercise classes, decorated the walking ‘park’ area with hundreds of posters and signs with words of encouragement and assisted in switching out hundreds of beds,” Kaprielian said. “Our team was able to adapt in the moment to new tasks.”
Laufer agreed. “I had not completed pulmonary rehabilitation since school, but my amazing fellow PTs and I jumped right in, learning as we went and helping each other,” she said. “We quickly realized how much we were needed, since the virus took such a toll. Many of the patients were very happy to see us because they were so appreciative of our efforts to help them feel better and go home.”
Monica McDonagh, OTR/L, was part of the Occupational Therapy team that helped patients regain functions required for daily living activities, including bathing, dressing, preparing meals, shopping and other activities.
“Many of the patients recovering from COVID were deconditioned and required oxygen,” said McDonagh, who works at the Mass General/Brigham and Women’s Health Care Center in Foxborough. “Part of the therapy included teaching pacing and breathing techniques while performing these activities in order to prevent fatigue and oxygen desaturation.”
Beth Regan, MS, CCC-SLP, senior speech pathologist in Foxborough, joined the Boston Hope team to provide therapy to patients experiencing swallowing and cognitive deficits after prolonged intubations.
She completed swallow evaluations and chose appropriate diets that were safe for patients, following their progress and updating diets as appropriate. “I also completed cognitive assessments for patients who experienced altered medical status or confusion,” she said. “This was important for determining the patient’s safety for returning home or deciding the appropriate setting for care after discharge.”
An Inspiring Experience
The dedication and compassion of the staff, as well as the support of the community, created a warm, hopeful environment for patients and staff alike.
“Staff would donate clothes for patients, since most only had the clothes they left their homes with,” said McDonagh.
She said the experience reminded her about the importance of coming together in a time of crisis. “Everyone has something to contribute, and no act is too small,” she said. “I’m proud to have had the opportunity to contribute to Boston Hope. Moving forward, I hope we all continue to take care of one another.”
For Regan, the most inspiring part of her time at Boston Hope was the way therapists, nurses, physicians and other staff from various organizations came together as one team.
“Everyone was supportive and eager to help our patients and each other,” she said. “I enjoyed being part of organizing and setting up speech services along with fellow speech pathologists Laura Kasparian from the Brigham and Tessa Goldsmith from Mass General. Although I was the only speech/language pathologist treating patients at Boston Hope, I never felt alone. I was part of a team.”
Amy Butler, MSPT, PT, senior therapist at the Brigham and Women’s Ambulatory Care Center at 850 Boylston St., noted the support she felt from the National Guard team.
“Their professionalism and unshakable resolve were very comforting and offered great reassurance while we ventured into a new environment with a new team,” she said. “Overall, I was inspired by the high level of care which we were able to achieve together in a short period of time to help this population recover.”
Kaprielian said she will most remember the hope that patients and staff alike experienced. “Boston Hope was truly that — hope. I saw many people whom I never expected to leave a hospital go home. When things are bleak during this pandemic, I remember all the people who recovered and the strangers who united for a common goal.”