Tori Wiley, a licensed practical nurse with Northeast Georgia Physicians Group, found out she was pregnant with her third child in mid-April. Around 10 days later, Wiley said she tested positive for COVID-19.
Wiley said, at the time, she primarily worked a few days at the Interventional Pain Medicine office in Braselton, then would help out with the COVID-19 triage line, which entailed answering calls from those wanting to get tested for the virus. The nurse said she decided to receive a COVID-19 test after experiencing allergy-like symptoms and a headache.
“That (mild symptoms) lasted two to three days, and it dramatically worsened,” Wiley said. “But then, I woke up one day, and it improved just as dramatically as it came.”
Early into the pandemic, Wiley said she couldn’t find any information about the effects of COVID-19 on a pregnancy. She stayed in regular contact with her OB-GYN, who recommended quarantining and treating her fever. Wiley said because of her physician’s support, she wasn’t fearful for her child.
“I didn't think too much about it,” she said. “If you don’t know, you can either speculate or wait and see.”
After 11 days, Wiley said she recovered from COVID-19 and was able to return to work in May, which happened to be the day when in-person patient visits started to return.
While working as a nurse, Wiley said her office conducted telehealth visits from March until the end of April. Week by week, she said they slowly and cautiously began to transition back to a normal schedule. During the spring, Wiley said NGPG’s Interventional Pain Medicine offices allotted an hour between patient visits to thoroughly clean the exam and procedure rooms. They also took precautions like limiting patients to one nurse and having people sit in their cars instead of the waiting rooms.
COVID-19 has been hard on many, but for these frontline health care workers, its effects are an everyday reality. Over the next two weeks, we share the stories of a few of those who have risen to the occasion and done their jobs well in the face of unmatched pressure professionally and sometimes personally. We need heroes in this battle, and through their dedication, they have shown us what that looks like. We worked with Northeast Georgia Health System to identify those we are profiling, and this series is being made available free to nonsubscribers. Thank you to our subscribers for making our work possible. If you are not a subscriber, please consider supporting our work by subscribing to The Times. If you have a story about a frontline health care worker who has made a difference, please submit your story to firstname.lastname@example.org. For other stories in this series, visit gainesvilletimes.com/hometownheroes.
Although pregnant until recently and wearing full personal protective equipment while working, Wiley said she enjoys her job. She said her unique perspective of needing routine health care while expecting a child allowed her to empathize more with her patients who deal with chronic pain. Wiley said she understands the frustration of delaying care that’s not “life or death,” but still contributes to someone’s well being.
“When you’re in pain, some patients rely on procedures and schedule it out for weeks in advance,” she said. “To find out that you can’t have it, and you don’t know when you’re going to be able to have it, it has to be so devastating. You don’t want to be brushed aside until who knows when.”
Wiley said she felt motivated to not put off her patients’ care as much as she could, but do so in a safe manner.
“I put myself in their shoes,” she said “We’re going to do what we can to get them in here because I would hate to have to be rescheduled or put on a wait list.”
By the mid-summer, Wiley said the three pain medicine offices located in Braselton, Gainesville and Dawsonville were able to operate on a normal schedule.
On Monday, Dec. 7, Wiley gave birth to her son, Sullivan. She said her husband was able to stay with her in the delivery room, making the experience similar to her other two births.
“You really couldn’t tell the difference as far as care and staff,” Wiley said. “The nurses were amazing, and fortunately it (the pandemic) didn’t have an impact as far as that goes.”
During her time recovering from COVID-19 and serving as a nurse while pregnant, Wiley said her husband has been one of her biggest supporters.
“My husband worked from home with both kids while I was going to work,” she said. “They’re 5 and 3 (years old), and I don’t think I could’ve worked from home with them.”
As the winter creeps in, Wiley encourages people to follow COVID-19 guidelines and monitor their symptoms.
“Realize that in a few hours, you can go from feeling fine, to something is wrong,” she said. “Just be aware of it. We have to get things done and go to work, but we definitely have to do what we can to make sure we’re not needlessly exposing people.”