Image of EVUSHELD pop-up clinic at Providence.
While most were leaving lockdowns and unmasking, those who are immunocompromised continued living bubble-wrapped realities to stay safe.
When EVUSHELD* was introduced under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for immunocompromised persons, the medicine became a ticket to semi-normalcy, especially for patients like Carmen Grigsby. Carmen lives with leukemia and severe chronic neutropenia, this means she has critically low white blood cells for fighting off infections.
Amid the pandemic, Providence employees began a shielded, nurse-run pop up clinic in Olympia to safely administer EVUSHELD to immunocompromised patients. The clinic was done in partnership with the Washington Department of Health and Birdseye Medical, and several Providence employees.
“It took some big collaboration to make it all happen. With staffing shortages and many other priorities, it has taken real creativity and resolve to continue to make this service possible,” said Deidre Dillon, Clinical Research RN and Program Manager.
In the first six months, the nurses administered 250 doses to patients in the community, from cancer care patients, transplant patients and more. Carmen was one of those patients.
Living in and out of the box
Carmen was said to be immunocompromised since birth. She struggled in school due to extreme fatigue and abnormally high fevers, but doctors were unable to diagnose and give her treatment. It wasn’t until 2012, after years of confusion and misdiagnosis, that Carmen was diagnosed with leukemia.
For many years that followed, Carmen spent most of her time in bed in full-time assisted living.
Image of Carmen at the beach.
By 2019, Carmen was out of a wheelchair and enjoying her time out in public. Just as Carmen began living more freely, the pandemic came. Carmen, as with other immunocompromised persons, was forced to “live stuck in a box again".
Carmen received the first round of EVUSHELD treatment from nurses at the pop-up clinic and praises nurse efforts to make the clinic a safe space against COVID-19. “The nurses were wonderful, and I was really happy that the first clinic had a completely separate entrance. It was so good to know that I didn’t have to walk through a space where someone might have a virus – it was safe,” said Carmen.
With EVUSHELD, Carmen notes that her freedom has increased. While she acknowledges the pandemic is still a concern, “there is more quality of life to be able to do things, to know you are safer. More people just need to be informed – you can continue as you did before and live cautiously.”
“When COVID happened, I was living in fear,” Carmen said. “I put off doctor appointments I should’ve gone to. I was worried I’d put off cancer treatments for too long. Now, I have more confidence that I can go into those buildings. I am prepared, I am cautious, but I can live this life. I don’t have to hide in a closet.”
The EVUSHELD clinic
The clinic nurses, led by the Medical Research Program Manager, reinvented a space into a safe environment for immunocompromised patients. Through collaborative efforts, the clinic included a negative pressure room, safe staging area, and a private entrance
“I tell so many people about it [EVUSHELD] and tell people to talk to your doctors about it. I could finally live with myself without fear,” Carmen shared, “I can go to appointments now with people who might have the virus [COVID-19] and I won’t catch it so easy. I have to use more caution than before COVID, but I know this medicine has given me the ability to be in public again.”
Carmen dreams of one day living in her own tiny house in California, where the endless sun boosts her mood and her health.
Throughout the pandemic, health care workers have been referred to as heroes. The work of these nurses is an example of real heroism. In a time when immunocompromised patients were forced to choose safety over quality of life, while the rest of the world left their bubbles, nurses in the Olympia clinic did not forget about these patients.
“You gotta live this life like you’re living,” says Carmen. Providence caregivers and their partners helped hundreds achieve just that.
*EVUSHELD, by AstraZeneca, is a medicine under EUA for pre-exposure prevention of COVID-19 in persons who have moderate to severe immune compromise. Consult your doctor to see if you are eligible for the treatment.
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