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MT doctor brings home COVID-19 experience from New York

Billings doctor brings home COVID experience from New York
Posted at 10:00 AM, Oct 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-23 12:00:44-04

BILLINGS — A Billings doctor came out of retirement to provide relief for the critical care physicians treating COVID-19 patients.

But before Dr. Kris Spanjian could help here, a need came up in New York.

"All my life my whole career was dedicated to helping others. And just because you retire, that part of you doesn’t go away," said Spanjian, St. Vincent Healthcare critical care physician. "And even though I hadn't been in the trenches for a couple years, I figured I could get back on the horse and ride again a little bit."

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Dr. Kris Spanjian

In May, she worked for about two-and-half weeks at New York University Langone Health’s Tisch Hospital and Kimmel Pavilion.

"This is really something different than any of us had ever seen," she said. "I've been in practice for over 30 years. I saw a lot of people get bacterial infections for fungal infections because their body is so weakened. And they're in the (intensive care unit) for a long time so there are these other bacterial pneumonias that can come on top of the virus anymore."

She talked about what she learned about COVID.

"Treating things more aggressively than you might before a normal pneumonia when someone starts having some trouble with blood pressure or heart rate, cardiac issues, realize with this disease, that can actually get worse very quickly and very seriously," Spanjian said. "The clotting problem, blood clots, was something that was not appreciated to begin with, and yet it's a huge part of this disease."

She also has seen the emotional effects.

"The other thing was isolation problem with patients and their families," Spanjian said. "Families aren't allowed in."

And she said people in New York expressed appreciation for the hospital workers.

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"The whole community around the hospital would celebrate at that time as the shift was going off, other people were coming on just to show the support," Spanjian said.

She's confident Billings doctors and nurses are prepared.

"The group at St. Vincent and I’m sure Billings Clinic is the same way, and RiverStone Health are all working together," she said. "We do have the personnel here that I think is just as good and as experienced as it was in New York City.

"Treating things more aggressively than you might before a normal pneumonia when someone starts having some trouble with blood pressure or heart rate, cardiac issues, realize with this disease, that can actually get worse very quickly and very seriously. The clotting problem, blood clots, was something that was not appreciated to begin with and yet it's a huge part of this disease."

Spanjian does not know how much longer she will work but plans on being available for as long as she is needed.