As difficult as it has been to not see her parents or grandchildren for months, Lake Martin Community Hospital nurse practitioner Kim Robertson-Heidepriem remains strict on social distancing keeping her family’s safety at the forefront.

Robertson-Heidepriem has worked in the emergency department at the hospital for the last 10 years and treats COVID-19 patients on a regular basis.

“At first it was very frightening but I think we’ve gotten a better understanding of it now,” Robertson-Heidepriem said. “I think we feel a little more prepared in handling these patients.”

In the ER, patients are screened upon entering and those exhibiting any sign of the coronavirus are tested.

“The screening exam helps determine those that need to be tested,” Robertson-Heidepriem said. “Every day we are having four or five come through the ER we feel are possible cases.”

Once patients are admitted they are moved to the main hospital floor and Robertson assists with rounding on them daily as well.

“We are cognizant that everyone could be a COVID patient so we are more cautious and more careful,” Robertson-Heidepriem said. “This also helps prepare us at home. We’re very strict on social distancing. I haven’t seen my parents since Dec. 1 because of the flu and then it transitioned into COVID. When you have parents at risk, you just talk to them by phone and it’s the same with my grandchildren.”

Even when her grandchildren come to her home to play in the pool and lake, Robertson-Heidepriem waves to them from afar and gives air hugs.

“That’s been the hardest part — not being able to love on your family and see your family,” she said. “But I’ll tell you, our hospital family is huge.”

Robertson-Heidepriem said the outpouring of support employees at Lake Martin Community Hospital provides one another helps fill that emotional void.

“We all know what we’re going through and sacrificing at home,” she said. “I think we’ve been there for each other — all the hospital staff from maintenance and housekeeping all the way to the top with administration.”

That supportive mentality extends at home too as Robertson-Heidepriem has felt so welcomed in Dadeville. 

“I feel like there’s such a community spirit in Dadeville,” Robertson-Heidepriem said. “I feel proud to be here. People are really great.”

Robertson’s husband Phil Heidepriem is an ER physician at East Alabama Medical Center so they’re extra careful with both of them being at risk for added exposure. They also coordinate the same days off or else they would never see one another.

“Social distancing is really the key,” Robertson-Heidepriem said. “The masks may help but it’s staying away and good handwashing that’s key.”

 

Robertson-Heidepriem is impressed with how well some of the elderly patients are doing at the hospital while recovering from COVID-19.

“There are those few that have really difficult situations and those are harder,” she said. “But it’s amazing some of these older people are doing really well. It’s rewarding but a lot of work.”

Robertson-Heidepriem started as a nurse in 1980 and became a nurse practitioner with a PHD in 1995.

“I am well prepared for all these things but this has been work and you have to really pay attention,” she said. “We went though Ebola and thought that was a big deal and been through several flus but this has been different.”

The stress and exhaustion has hit Robertson-Heidepriem and her husband harder with this pandemic as well.

“We’re tired when we get home,” Robertson-Heidepriem said. “I don’t remember ever thinking, ‘I don’t know if I can get up today,’ until all this. We’re going to bed earlier.”

Overall Robertson-Heidepriem feels if everyone abides by the restrictions and recommendations for public interactions and is cognizant of the severity of this virus, things could get better more quickly.

“I would be super cautious about everyone jumping back into all the activities out there,” she said. “It needs to be a slow return to give us more time to get this virus out the way.  If everyone would just follow the rules, we’ll get through this together.”

Amy Passaretti is a staff writer with the Alexander City Outlook.