As a cardiac nurse at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Karen Lowe has treated hundreds of seriously-ill patients, but never thought she would use her skills in the middle of a pandemic.
That’s exactly where the Double Oak mom of five has been since mid-March. A Level 1 trauma center, Baylor has long been where people from all over the state and beyond receive the highest level of care. So it’s no surprise health care specialists like her are at the forefront of the battle with the unseen enemy.
“With COVID, it has truly been all hands on deck,” she said. “Several of our floors and an ICU have pivoted to serve as containment units to effectively treat those who are ill and contain the spread of the virus. This becomes an incredible and cooperative effort as we all have to know and be prepared with the policies posted daily that evolve with the CDCs latest recommendations and the growing research and knowledge of the virus.”
Like all her fellow medical professionals, Lowe has seen everything from patients making a full recovery and walking out of the hospital to passing away and everything in between.
“We are trained to be flexible and highly adaptive and to use our whole brain and whole heart every day,” she said. “I’ve experienced some of the hardest days in being a nurse dealing with COVID and addressing the severity of the illness and the families of the patients not being able to be with them.
“The level of fear and anxiety that my patients face without their families is tough, so as nurses not only are we navigating the stressors of the illness but also their emotional states. We stand in the gap for them with their family and friends who are not able to be with them.”
At first Lowe and her peers worked more than the usual three 12-hour weekly shifts. As things began settling down, she has returned to her regular schedule which has allowed more time to serve her own family as a homeschool teacher to her children – son Zachary, 14; triplets Keegan, Shaun, and Joshua, 9; and daughter Anna Kate, 5 – who normally attend Founders Classical Academy of Flower Mound.
“Of my five children, four are dependent learners so navigating the technology of that first two weeks was challenging as well,” she said. “I work three days at the hospital and come home and do schooling with my children the other four days.”
Teaching her children at home has given Lowe a new appreciation for those who do it professionally.
“After my experience these last few weeks, helping my children, and seeing how much effort their teachers have put into the online modules and connecting with each student, I’m convinced now, more than ever, that each teacher’s salary needs to be no less than a million dollars a year!” she quipped.
“It’s had its challenges but wonderful parts too because I get to see where my children’s strengths are and where they need help. I feel much more in touch of where they are at in school and can stand shoulder to shoulder with their teachers. It’s provided more of an understanding and empathy for educators in all of this as well.”
Lowe has worked at Baylor Dallas for three years after starting her nursing career at Medical City Lewisville. Before earning her nursing degree at Biola University in California in 2010 she served five years as a human resources manager.
She became interested in nursing after having to go to the intensive care unit due to some complications from Zachary’s birth.
“I saw what good the caring medical professionals could do and what the negligent professionals could do,” she said. “I believe that nurses make a profound impact on patients’ lives. Our career affords us the opportunity to use our whole heads and whole hearts, every single shift.
“We have the most direct patient care and tend to the changing severities and acuities of the illness, while also having the opportunity to walk with our patients through the darkest, most anxious times. We are allowed into our patient’s journey for a brief moment, and have the opportunity to impact their heart, mind, soul, and body.”
Before moving to Double Oak four years ago, Lowe, husband Dave and her children lived in Lantana and Flower Mound. That journey and her education and training have provided a resiliency to get things done and find new ways to do them.
“There have been some deeply difficult aspects of COVID with the fear, unknowns, and isolation, and yet I feel a silver lining is that there has been such resiliency and creativity as we have had to find new ways to do things,” she said.
“In our isolation, we have found new ways to connect and reach out to one another in a new sense of community and understanding in ways we have never done before.”