He has additional responsibilities in this unit because of its use of an intense therapy called ECMO — extracorporeal membrane oxygenation — she said. An ECMO machine pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest.
“We take the sickest of the sick patients,” Fowler said. “We have people flown in from all over the Southeast.”
RN Clayton Fowler, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, works in a unit that cares for some of the hospital's most critically ill patients. Courtesy of Crew Atlanta
In March 2020, the Marietta hospital’s ICU was converted to take care of critical COVID-19 patients, Kadner said.
Many of these patients also are on other life-saving therapies, such as continuous renal replacement or ongoing bedside dialysis for kidney failure, she said.
And despite these challenges, Fowler demonstrates pride in being a critical care nurse and leader, Kadner said.
“He maintains a ‘can do’ and ‘will make it happen’ attitude,” she said.
Fowler remembers that initially transitioning to a COVID ICU was “very scary for a lot of the nurses.”
At that time, the medical profession didn’t have that much knowledge of the virus.
“Once we got our bearing on what COVID is and how we go about treating it, it became easier,” said Fowler, the father of a newborn and 3-year-old. “But it was a very, very difficult time.”
The unit’s team did an “awesome” job, however, he said.
Fowler was touched recently to hear from a former ECMO patient whose hand he had held in the hospital. The patient reached out on Facebook and said: “Thank you for saving my life.”
Fowler said: “That really makes you smile when things like that happen.”
RN Clayton Fowler, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital. Courtesy of Crew Atlanta
Meet the other award winners:
Vicky Hogue, Wellstar Paulding Hospital. Winner of the Nurse Leadership Award, sponsored by Mercer
Rochanda Crawford, Grady Health System
Beth Dziczkowski, Northside Hospital Cherokee
Danielle Giaritelli, Emory Healthcare
Jody Leonard, Southern Regional Medical Center
Kathleen LePain, Piedmont Healthcare Athens
Tasneem Malik, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Laura Moss, Wellstar Spalding Regional Hospital
Laurie Pazda, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital
Laura Toops, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta