Kudos to Kate: A LifeLine nurse transporting critical patients during COVID-19

We are IU Health

April 21, 2020

Every day is a learning experience for Kate Pedigo. Now with so many unknown factors about COVID-19, she’s sharing what she learns with her team at IU Health LifeLine.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

Inside the downtown offices of the IU Health LifeLine heliport, is a bulletin board filled with red hearts. Each heart includes an encouraging message or note of appreciation to team members who are steadfast in their cause: Safely transporting critically ill patients.

In recent weeks, those emergency responders have affectionately filled the board with “hearts for Kate.”

A critical care nurse, Kate Pedigo has become known as the “Corona Queen.” She has transported a majority of patients who have symptoms or a diagnosis of COVID-19.

“I’m not really sure how it happened but it’s the way things have worked out. I was the one on duty when the calls came and I ended up seeing most of the patients,” said Pedigo, 35.

One of the messages from her peer reads: “Thanks Kate for being the expert for COVID-19 transports. You are valued.”

Pedigo has worked with LifeLine for just over a year. Before that she was a nurse at IU Health Bloomington and has worked in areas of labor and delivery, ER, and as a paramedic.

“The virus is so contagious and there are still so many unknowns that we’ve had to adapt quickly to protect ourselves, our patients with the diagnosis, and our patients we care for after the diagnosed patient,” said Pedigo. “The biggest thing I’ve noticed that’s so different is visiting restrictions have changed for families. I used to call a family member to tell them when we were leaving and call them again once we arrived safely at the hospital. Now we no longer have family at the bedside so we’ve lost part of that whole person care.”

LifeLine teams throughout the state quickly adopted action plans for screening and transporting patients showing symptoms of, or diagnosed with COVID-19. They also introduced additional measures to ensure the safety of team members.

And they continue learning and sharing ideas as the virus rapidly spreads. Months ago Pedigo was talking to colleagues around the country specializing in emergency medicine to get a jump on patient care. She isn’t sure how many diagnosed patients she has transported but she estimates more than a dozen. All have been taken to IU Health Methodist Hospital for additional care. Most of her patients have been between 40 to 50 years of age.

“With every COVID transport we do just as with any critically ill patient, our goal is to get the patient to the right place by initiating or maintaining the highest level of care,” said Pedigo. “We are learning with each one. We’ve never done this before and we are adapting to changes and talking as a team about what we need to do to support each other and stay safe.”

For her part, Pedigo is working with LifeLine managers to compile a list of tips she’s learned along the way. For instance, instead of one pair of gloves, she wears multiple layers and strips the gloves off as she leaves one area and moves to the next. A protective gown now covers things she normally had access to on her flight suit. So another tip she offers her team members is to have the essentials at the ready.

“I keep airway clamps and carabiners outside my flight suit now,” said Pedigo. Most of the patients she transports are on numerous medications so she uses the spring-loaded gate clamps to hold all the drip bags together for safe transport.

When she’s not on duty as a LifeLine nurse, Pedigo is at home with another essential worker – her husband Ryan is a captain with the Bloomington Police Department. He works days; she works nights. “We’ve had a lot of conversations about the direction this whole pandemic is going and ways to help control it. I’ve offered up suggestions on disinfecting the police cars and equipment,” said Pedigo. And when they’re both home, they unwind by playing outside with their dogs “Barbara,” and “Abe.”

“I’m proud of my profession,” said Pedigo. “I think everyone is coming together to get it done. Yes, everyone is stressed but we are working together as a team – not just nurses, but EMS, firefighters, police – we’re all in it together.”

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