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'There's a lot of hand-holding this year': Nurses comfort patients isolated from families on Thanksgiving

Normally Baptist Health would be full of families visiting their patients on Thanksgiving. Thanks to COVID-19, that's not the case this year.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — On any other Thanksgiving, the road in front of Baptist Health in Downtown Jacksonville would be full of traffic, families visiting their patients in the hospital for the holiday.

This year thanks to COVID-19 the only way people inside the hospital saw their family for Thanksgiving was through Zoom, including nurses. 

"I have a mother who's 93-years-old and I made a decision not to travel," said Teresa Puello, Assistant Nurse Manager at Baptist Health Downtown.

"I come from a big family and we've always gotten together and have a big celebration," she said.

It's not her plans that Puello is concerned about this year, It's her patients. She works in a COVID-19 unit at the hospital.

“There’s a lot of handholding this year with our patients. There’s a lot of handholding. It’s needed more than ever before, more than the physical we find, that they need that special touch and that touch that special connection as far as emotional needs are concerned," Puello said.

COVID-19 patients can't have any visitors, and non-COVID patients can only have one during the day. Normally, she said they'd have lots of family members visiting for Thanksgiving.

“Thank God for Zoom. We’ve been doing a lot of Zooms," she said

Puello and her fellow nurses and doctors connect patients with their families every day, and connected them virtually to their Thanksgiving dinners.  

”I’m so thankful for the team that we have. I feel that they’re a special group of people and every group of healthcare that comes in touch with these patients," Puello said.

She thinks after Thanksgiving there will be a spike in more COVID patients.

“We are going to have higher numbers. I pray that we don’t but this is what I foresee," Puello said.

Puello begs the public to wear masks, and to follow the CDC's recommendations. She said she thinks we can all agree no one wants another holiday separated from our families, or another year like this.

“I think that we have learned a lesson with COVID. We have taken family for granted. We have taken just breathing fresh air outdoors for granted and I think that we will wake up one day when this is all behind us, and we will look at life better and be more grateful and thankful for what we have and never notice how much we had," Puello said.