Voices From the Front Lines: Jonathan Goldner, DO Associate Chief Medical Officer, LVH–Pocono
BY TED WILLIAMS
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives, none more so than those working on the front lines of this crisis – our health care heroes. Voices From the Front Lines is a series of interviews with Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) health care providers who are working to care for patients who are ill with COVID-19, as well as those who are dedicated to helping prevent the spread of this virus.
Jonathan Goldner, DO, has practiced internal medicine in the Poconos for 32 years. For Goldner, practicing medicine is a family affair. Goldner and his two brothers followed their father, a general practitioner on Long Island, N.Y., into medicine. Currently, Goldner’s two daughters are both in physician residencies.
What is every day like during the COVID-19 crisis?
Located so close to New York and New Jersey, we have a lot of residents who commute to those locations or live there and have vacation homes here. This connection has impacted our hospital a great deal as those areas have been severely affected by COVID-19. By late March, we were seeing at least four or five new COVID-19 patients a day. It got very difficult for us for several weeks.
How has this experience changed you, professionally or personally?
My experience with COVID-19 actually started on March 9 as a member of the National Disaster Medical System. I was deployed to California where the cruise ship Grand Princess had been docked for two weeks in Oakland. We were there to help COVID-19 patients disembark and then relocate them for quarantine. Initially, we had been told there were just 21 patients. The reality was there were hundreds. I spent two weeks in full isolation gear, and it became obvious our world had changed. I had never seen anything like this.
What’s inspired you? What is a defining moment during this?
My colleagues have inspired me every day through this crisis. COVID-19 patients have been all alone here because of the acute potential for this infection to spread. I’ve seen nurses or other staff members holding up cellphones for them so they can see their loved ones on FaceTime. I’ve seen a nurse holding a phone to a patient’s ear so family members could say goodbye. Those are images I’ll never forget.
What have you learned about yourself or your team?
For about two weeks we were low on ventilators and pushing our staff and resources to the limits. But our LVHN team, our colleagues across the entire network, really stepped up to assist. Caregivers across all disciplines here at LVH–Pocono offered to help. LVH–Cedar Crest sent us three ventilators and stepped in when our patient flow began to overwhelm us. Anything we needed, LVHN was there. It’s made me very proud to be part of this network.
What are your rituals to keep you and your family safe?
It’s interesting. I actually changed my daily routine from what I learned in California. You have to be aware of this virus at all times. For example, it can live on your shoes from walking in the hospital. I’m sure to shower once I get home and I am wary of where I take off my clothes before putting them in the washer, that kind of thing. We’re all likely to have to remain conscious of this virus for quite some time.
What words of advice or encouragement do you have for health care employees or the community?
Let’s keep in mind that this will end sometime. It will take a vaccine to get there, but we will get there. We just have to continue to be there for each other, as we have thus far, and we will get through this.
Are there any other thoughts you would like to share about this experience or about the resilience of patients?
The support of the community has been incredible. We have tons of food arriving at the hospital every day. As I drive in, I see signs along the road and chalk drawings in front of the hospital thanking us for what we’re doing. It warms our hearts. When times get tough, and there have been plenty of those times, it’s those sentiments that help us to see them through.
Find more inspiring stories from the front lines and beyond at LVHN.org/COVIDSTRONG.