As a senior medical consultant for Allianz Global Assistance, Lori Calavan has been helping the travel insurer manage the medical care of travelers who have contracted Covid-19. In some cases, those travelers are being treated in countries far from their own.

Among Calavan’s tasks at Allianz are to work with its team on a daily basis to determine the course of care for patients and how Allianz should handle the case; liaise with physicians providing in-country care; and connect patients with family. Allianz has a network of about 1,500 hospitals in 130 countries, and it typically manages more than 700 medical evacuations each year.

Lori Calavan
Lori Calavan

But Calavan has also been experiencing the virus’ devastation much closer to home: She is a physician assistant in the intensive care unit at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Conn., which is treating Covid-19 patients.

“It’s very challenging,” Calavan said. “Because we’re working more hours just to have the coverage for the Covid patients, it’s definitely tiring, but we took an oath, and this is what we do. We help people.”

Calavan is a surgical critical care provider, part of a group of 12 physician assistants at St. Francis who work in the ICU to provide 24-hour care to surgical patients who have suffered traumas. 

Initially, the Covid-19 patients were admitted and cared for by the medical ICU; they weren’t trauma patients, like Calavan usually cares for. But then patient numbers started to climb, and St. Francis’ medical intensivists needed help.

“As we’ve seen across the world, it’s all hands on deck,” she said. 

As before, patients are examined from head to toe, with every system checked -- neurological, pulmonary, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal. “In that regard, we’re still doing the same thing, because you definitely don’t want to miss anything, especially on Covid patients,” she said. 

“But as you would imagine, it’s different, because you want to also practice social distancing,” Calavan said. “You don’t want to have a group of 10 or 15 people all close together, rounding on the group of patients.”

The teams have been slimmed down, she said, and not all enter the room of a Covid-19 patient. Calavan said she and her colleagues are learning every day how to better treat Covid-19 patients.

One of the more difficult aspects of Covid-19 has been the implementation of stricter visitor policies at many hospitals, St. Francis included. “As providers, we want to be there for them, because probably the worst part of all of this is that if patients do die, they die alone,” she said.

Calavan said she has never experienced anything like the coronavirus pandemic in her career, but one bright spot has been a spirit of cooperation as exemplified, for example, by learning from fellow members of the Society of Critical Care Medicine.

“As trying as the time is, there are these areas where we see groups coming together to try to help,” she said. “You’ve got to look at the light at the end of the tunnel.”

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