University Health recalls first COVID patient 2 years later

Jennifer E. Engen

KANSAS CITY, MO — Amanda Finley, a COVID-19 survivor, says time has quickly passed the last two years during the pandemic.

“I don’t know if it’s been 2 minutes or 200 years. I define life as B.C. Before COVID and then everything else,” said Finley, founder of a COVID-19 long haulers discussion group.

Finley has contracted COVID four times over the last two years, but in the beginning, she like many was unsure of the unknown.

“It was terrifying,” she said. “I have asthma, and all of the early reports said if you’ve got asthma, this will kill you.”

Finley’s uncertainty was shared with health care workers at University Health, who on March 20, 2020, admitted the hospital’s first COVID-19 patient.

“We didn’t have enough PPE. We had to reuse masks, disinfect them every night. Staffing was tough,” said University Health President and CEO Charlie Shields. “We didn’t know how things were transmitted, and when we thought people were putting themselves at risk to care for patients.”

Shields says healthcare workers were put through many challenges after the first patient entered the hospital doors.

“We had nurses that would undress in their garages before they’d go into the house because they were afraid that they would transmit something to their families,” he said. “We had people living in their garages because they didn’t want to live in their house, being part of the rest of their family’s life. That was just how scary it was.”

Finley tells KSHB 41 News she dealt with some of her darkest days during the pandemic.

“The most terrifying part was definitely over summer 2021. June and July, I started falling all the time. It got to the point on stairs, I would not walk up and down, I would sit and scoot up and down so I wouldn’t fall. I was so disoriented at times,” Finley said. “It was so much worse the second time, and I would sit there and watch my oxygen levels bottom out. The lowest they got was 62.

“I wound up losing my apartment July 31, 2020. They didn’t renew my lease, and here I was homeless in the middle of a pandemic, scared to death. I’ve gone from friend to friend, whoever could help at the time. I have a wonderful friend army, I’m grateful for them.”

But thanks to the team at University Health, who Shields says was the first to do vaccines in the metro, Finley is fully vaccinated.

“Oh my gosh, I was so excited! I thought it was the light at the end of the tunnel,” Finley said.

Finley now lives with the long haul effects of COVID-19 but has started a support group on Facebook with information, fundraisers and more to help others just like her.

Two years and 140,000 vaccines later, University Health wants people to take care of one another and remember the work of those inside the intensive care unit as communities adjust to the new realities of life since the onset of the pandemic.

“There really is no middle ground — it’s both horrific and it’s extremely promising at the same time,” Finley said.

We want to hear from you on what resources Kansas City families might benefit from to help us all through the pandemic. If you have five minutes, feel free to fill out this survey to help guide our coverage: KSHB COVID Survey.

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