Deepa Patel, Wellstar Shared Services

For a second year, COVID-19 took its toll on hospital employees. Not only did they put their lives at risk administering care, but they also met the extra demands required during a patient’s death and after-care.

Deepa Patel, an experienced Wellstar System float nurse, said she is still profoundly affected by a husband and wife, married for more than 50 years, whom she cared for at Kennestone Hospital as they were dying of COVID-19.

ExploreCelebrating Nurses 2022: See all the winners from this year's ceremony

Nurse manager Kristen Morris said Patel could handle anything that came at her and noted how professionally she cared for the couple during her shift. “She watched over them with great care, tenderness, and compassion on this day,” Morris wrote in nominating Patel for an Atlanta Journal-Constitution Celebrating Nurses award.

Both husband and wife had COVID and were deteriorating when they came in from a nearby nursing home. They were placed in the same hospital room next to each other to be together, Morris wrote.

Patel cared for both, and, though they were not verbally responsive, she kept talking to them, keeping them apprised of the other’s condition.

That’s why Patel was presented with an AJC Nurse Excellence Award on Tuesday afternoon, after being nominated last fall. More than 800 nurses were nominated, with 10 receiving awards.

The wife died in the early afternoon, and Patel, with tears in her eyes, whispered in the husband’s ear that his wife was gone.

“It was heartbreaking,” Patel said. She has been a nurse for nine years, but this was the first patient she saw die.

Patel also had to keep families apprised of their loved ones’ conditions because pandemic restrictions prevented them from being at the hospital.

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Morris said it was “very emotional and difficult” for Patel to handle the extra paperwork required for COVID deaths, the calls, and the conversations with the family.

“She had never had to handle caring for a deceased patient, and not to mention with COVID. She obtained special instructions on how to handle and care for the body. A special treatment for the deceased body, which she had never done before in her nursing career,” Morris explained.

Patel said she could not eat when she finally took a lunch break that afternoon; her mind was on the husband. She was soon called back to his room; he died about 45 minutes after his wife.

“I will never forget that day. It touched my heart,” Patel said. “By the end of my shift, I felt like they were my loved ones.”

Morris said Patel “gave every ounce of herself to her two patients that shift. Both of which would never know her name.”

In her job, Patel travels to three Wellstar hospitals, providing nursing care where needed. “I like almost everything about my job,” she said. “I love being at the bedside. I love being with people. It’s a great thing to connect with them. When someone on my shift asks if I’m coming back, it’s a wonderful thing for me. It makes me happy.”

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Read more about the nurses honored at this year’s ceremony:

Shannan Browning, Piedmont Healthcare

Lauren DePietro, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital

Sarah Harper, Wellstar Cobb Hospital

Rose Horton, Emory Healthcare

Damar Lewis, Northside Hospital Duluth

Gina Papa, Clarkston Community Health Center

Andrew Perea, Kaiser Permanente

Cherish Ramirez, Piedmont Healthcare

Julie Singleton, Northeast Georgia Health System

Denise Ray, Piedmont Healthcare: Nurse Leader Award


DEEPA PATEL

Age: 38

Current job: float nurse with Wellstar Shared Services

Years of experience: 7

Educational background in nursing: associate’s degree in nursing, Ohio University.

Family info: Originally from India, Patel is the daughter of a medical doctor. She grew up seeing her dad take care of people, and she wanted to do something similar. However, there were no opportunities in India, so she immigrated to the United States and graduated from nursing school in Ohio. Her dad is now retired, and her parents live with her and her family. “He’s the one who motivated me to be a nurse, and it’s in great demand here,” Patel said.

caption arrowCaption
Nurse Deepa Patel and her daughters, Nandani Patel, left, and Radhika Patel. Photo contributed by Deepa Patel

Credit: spe

Nurse Deepa Patel and her daughters, Nandani Patel, left, and Radhika Patel. Photo contributed by Deepa Patel

Credit: spe

caption arrowCaption
Nurse Deepa Patel and her daughters, Nandani Patel, left, and Radhika Patel. Photo contributed by Deepa Patel

Credit: spe

Credit: spe