From scrambling to find masks and gloves to safely treating patients to making a mad dash for COVID-19 testing supplies, a Phoenix-area family physician reflects on some of the biggest challenges at the onset of the pandemic.

“I actually remember a pharmacist reaching out to me begging me for PPE equipment because they had nothing,” says Dr. Janice Johnston, Chief Medical Officer for Redirect Health.

In reflecting on the past year of the pandemic, Johnston recalls seeing patients last March experiencing complicated symptoms.

“When I saw them, I could tell immediately that this was something that I had never seen before,” says Johnston. “You could definitely tell they were sick in a way that was a little bit different from what we recognized.”

2:29 Arizonans look back and reflect on past year of the pandemic
COVID-19 soon hit home for Dr. Johnston. She says three of her coworkers lost their parents to the virus. Johnston herself got sick. Her husband is now a “long-hauler,” someone who is experiencing symptoms months after diagnosis.

The medical community was faced with a novel virus with many unknowns. Dr. Johnston says there were support groups where medical professionals traded tips on treatments and techniques that appeared to be working for their patients.

“I really feel the medical community; we really buckled down,” says Johnston. “If you were on the frontlines, you were spending all your time treating patients, but you were learning at the same time.”

Dr. Johnston says she’s concerned about delayed care. Many Americans put off important check-ups during the pandemic because of safety concerns. Johnston is encouraging people to make those appointments and make their overall health a priority. She says there are signs of good things to come.

“I can tell you that over and over again with our older population when I ask ‘have you been vaccinated’ the answer is generally yes,” says Johnston. “That makes me so happy.”


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