Indianola physician has been more than a doctor to her COVID-19 patients during the pandemic

By BRYAN DAVIS PUBLISHER,

It’s been over two months since Dr. Hannah Ray has had a day off.

It was 67 days to be exact when she took a short break to speak with The E-T last week.

Some days are longer than others, each one more unpredictable than the last.

“The day in the life is a little bit different every day,” Ray said, sitting in her vehicle outside of the Indianola Family Medical Clinic.

Just last week, Ray was called into work at 2 a.m. She left at 8 p.m. that evening.

“There are lots of day-to-day changes,” Ray said.

Her colleagues, her church family, the surrounding community, her resilient patients and of course, her faith, have kept her strong since starting this journey back in March.

Ray -  along with Dr. Chad Dowell and Terry Dorsey, FNP-C and the “rock star” nurses that work on the floor- spends her days looking after the patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and require hospitalization.

She spends the early part of her day on rounds at South Sunflower County Hospital, and when she’s done tweaking all the little things that need to be tweaked in order to keep her patients stable, she races to IFMC to see symptomatic patients in the parking lot.

“Anyone with respiratory symptoms and other symptoms come to our section,” she said.

It seems as if there is a new challenge every day, and as the weeks push closer to the Mississippi Delta summer, even the heat has become an issue.

“I got sunburned doing my job yesterday,” Ray said, after spending hours outside of the clinic due to COVID-19 restrictions. “I’ve never done that before.”

Over the past two-plus months, Ray has seen dozens of patients who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Many of those patients have been able to recover with few issues, but there are ones who have had to be admitted to SSCH.

Those are the ones she worries about, even when she is not at work.

“I do think about it a lot,” Ray said. “I worry about the people who are real sick, and you worry that the people who aren’t real sick are going to get real sick. It’s very easy to let it take over if you don’t try and watch it.”

Ray, who grew up in a missionary family in Ukraine, said she has never experienced mission work quite like this, but it is a mission, she said.

“My faith is very important to me,” she said. “Without that, I don’t think I would be doing this, at least not this well for this long.”

Rays said that her church families at Grace Community Church and First Baptist Church have been very supportive through the process, sending her text messages and dropping off care packages for her.

Ray said that her faith has come in handy when dealing with the stresses of being one of the primary care physicians in charge of COVID-19 patients, but that faith has also helped to strengthen her patients’ resolve.

“People come in and they’re scared, in the hospital or in the parking lot, but especially the ones who are in the hospital who know they have it, and they watch the news,” Ray said. “They watch the same news that you and I see, and they’re scared. I’ve had the chance to sit with some of them and hold their hands, talk to them…I’ve prayed with them. Some of them have been people of faith, and some are people who are searching.”

Some patients are more severe than others, Ray said.

One of the symptoms of COVID-19 is a loss of taste, which causes many to stop eating.

Ray said she has worked with many patients, encouraging them to keep their heads up and to eat in order to keep their bodies strong.

“Some of them get their gumption going and hang in there and do what they need to do,” Ray said.

Ray said the nursing staff at the hospital has also been outstanding when it comes to supporting patients.

“Many times, the nurses will go into the ICU, and instead of doing just what they have to do and getting out of there, they are stopping for a minute and talking to the patients and offering words of encouragement. It’s a lot of little things that people appreciate that make them smile again.”

Ray said she has been encouraged herself by the community’s response with folks providing masks, food and other necessities at the hospital and clinic during the past two months or so.

For the foreseeable future, Ray will continue doing rounds, but she’s looking forward to the day when she can enjoy some time off and travel to see her family in the Jackson area.

“Maybe I’ll just turn my phone off or a day or so,” she quipped. “I’ll probably take a long weekend.”

Like every one of the health care heroes in Sunflower County, she deserves it.

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