March 2019, I was working as a laboratory supervisor in a small rural hospital in St Cloud Fl. As the first cases were confirmed we needed to act quickly and start the search of any tests kits fast enough to prevent the situation to get worse and to make sure we had ways to offer some direction to our administration and doctors. In the meantime we collaborated with the hospital IP and leadership to create visiting and isolation and staff PPE protocol and guidelines. It was my first rodeo helping in such a crucial time in history. The safety of our patients and staff depended on the steps we took. I also continued to validate and get our testing criteria and algorithms for testing patients ready.
Thanks to having the instrument Cepheid already installed in our laboratory we were able to use their platform and perform Sars Cov- 2 PCR testing almost immediately after FDA released the first PCR cartridge. Validation happened quick and we were on a roll. At one point kits were decreasing in numbers as the entire nation needed the same limited product. We worked with other companies that had rapid testing available but we wanted to ensure the specificity and reliability of our results were in the highest confidence margin possible. At that time I had applied to an Infection Preventionist position at the hospital I serve now , the position was on hold due to the pandemic so I kept given my best as a Clinical laboratory supervisor and an MPH graduate to keep my department in shape, my staff healthy, and continue supporting the patient care without any interruption of service and without compromising quality. As we partnership with our mother hospital we were supplied with a special allocation of test kits and we were also using an alternative rapid test to help with proper isolations and rapid detection.
As a Healthcare worker you always run, run, run but at one point of this pandemic in May my life changed forever. I was called by a social worker in NYC with the news that my only brother had died due to Covid-19 pneumonia alone in his apartment. He was only 39 and had a cold back in March that ended in a pneumonia. That was the moment I realized this was a true Public health disaster because it had touched very deep and personal.
My whole world went down but I didnt have a way to get closer to my family without exposing myself , my kids and my co workers. I kept moving forward honoring my brother on every move on every step. On Oct 2020 I was accepted as an IP at Orlando Health, the hospital I serve since 2006 when I first came to United States from PR. I've been always a science geek, a public health advocate and I am proud to say that perhaps I am not certified yet and having an unsual background outside nursing and direct patient care, this pandemic made me an IP without knowing it. The calling, the passion and the education were there but I never had the chance to execute all learned in the MPH program into real situations other than my cohort study before graduation.
I have to say our partnership with local hospitals, department of health and our vendors became the support system on this pandemic making those relationships stronger. We as a team changed the way we normally do things in the laboratory and also in the IP setting. We wanted eveyone safe at all times and we accomplished that with everyone's support. Me and the laboratory Director made 12 hrs shift of only 3 days to limit the amount of exposure of our staff, we provided coverage 24/7 to our 80 bed hospital with a busy ER mostly of elderly retired folks. Our hospital had one of the highest rates and we took the challenge to make sure the patients and staff were never compromised.
I want to humbly honor my brother Luis F Serrano Torres to be a fallen victim on this world changing situation. Perhaps my emotional and physical pain of losing him it gave me strength to continue serving and to make of his loss a living example in me that you can be anything you put your efforts in. I am a professional Clinical laboratory scientist that today serves as an Infection Preventionist at Orlando Health carrying with pride all my experience and years in the laboratory to become a better IP day by day. I am looking forward to take my certification and carry the CIC credentials behind my name honoring my beloved brother that’s in heaven.