Open Accessibility Menu

Care for the Caregivers

  • Author: David and Olga L
  • Date Submitted: Sep 21, 2021

Husband and wife David Lozano, MD and Olga Lozano, RN are used to giving rather than receiving care. Both take immense pride in being healthcare workers.

Both understand the risk. Still, it was a surprise when Dr. Lozano, a local family medicine doctor, and Olga, a home health nurse, were hospitalized simultaneously with Covid-19 in April 2020.

The night before Dr. Lozano was admitted to the hospital, his oxygen levels fluctuated wildly. The couple were confident they could weather the illness with their combined decades of medical experience. However, the next day, when Dr. Lozano turned blue during a coughing fit, they knew it was time to seek emergency care. To make matters worse, Olga too had begun to show Covid-19 symptoms.

With acute respiratory distress, Dr. Lozano was admitted quickly. With little time to lose, the ER doctor suggested immediate intubation, guessing Dr. Lozano would need it for a week at most.

It’s the last thing Dr. Lozano remembers before waking up—two months later—connected to an ICU ventilator and a sprawling network of medical machinery that had kept him alive. He had no idea Olga had also been in the ICU for two nerve-racking weeks, watching doctors struggle to help her husband as she also waged a difficult fight with this perplexing new disease.

“I remember feeling, at least I’m going to be close to him and will know what’s going on,” says Olga. “It was very surreal and traumatizing. I remember seeing him, but he was just gone.”

After her discharge, Olga continued to recover at home as her husband’s condition deteriorated. None of the therapeutics helped him. During his stay, Dr. Lozano experienced a list of dangerous setbacks, including pulmonary embolism, a lung abscess, deep vein thrombosis, respiratory insufficiency, kidney failure, and liver failure—all potentially lethal on their own. At one point, his heart stopped for 12 minutes, requiring resuscitation. With each passing day, Olga prepared herself for the worst.

But suddenly, in June, he turned a corner.

“One day he just began responding to treatment,” she says. “With the help of the doctors and everyone there, he came back.”

The disease had taken an immense toll on Dr. Lozano’s body. He could barely shift his torso in bed and was incapable of self-care. Olga knew her husband needed rehabilitation. She knew of Casa Colina’s well-regarded services through her nursing clientele. She worked quickly to get him admitted.

Fresh off a ventilator, Dr. Lozano arrived at our Medical-Surgical Wing, where critical care and pulmonology doctors monitored him carefully until he was strong enough to start therapy. Wary of his condition, but eager for him to begin work in our Acute Rehabilitation Wing, Olga worried. Elbert Chang, MD, Medical Director of the Medical-Surgical Wing, assured her that her husband was getting stronger by the day and was in good hands.

“With an ambitious, comprehensive, and medically supervised approach to rehabilitation, Casa Colina is the perfect facility to help patients like Dr. Lozano,” says Dr. Chang, who oversaw his care.

While there is a steep learning curve with any novel disease, Casa Colina is accustomed to treating new, rare, or complex conditions, as it has done repeatedly over its 85-year history, including with polio patients, Wounded Warriors with traumatic brain injuries, and now recovering Covid-19 patients.

“Since Covid-19 impacts the body in so many ways, these patients often need a full spectrum of acute medical and therapeutic services, and we are one of the few facilities to offer that locally,” says Dr. Chang.

In Dr. Lozano’s case, that impact was profound. Before beginning his rehabilitation, he expended all of his strength just to stand for 30 seconds. With an aggressive, physician-led regimen of physical, occupational, speech, and respiratory therapies, he was soon feeding and bathing himself and walking short distances.

After 14 days, Dr. Lozano was discharged, receiving a warm sendoff from the dozens of Casa Colina doctors, therapists, and support staff involved in his care. He continues to make progress at our Outpatient Center, gaining core strength, conditioning, and more. And he has begun seeing patients at his beloved family practice—via telehealth for now.

For Dr. Lozano, the experience made him rethink his approach to care in his own practice.

“When you’re close to dying, maybe you have a tendency to see things with more perspective—not just clinical, but from a healing perspective,” he says. “Your soul is very important, how you feel. Sometimes, as doctors, we get preoccupied with finding the diagnosis, and we forget to talk with the patients. So, I’m going to try to be more human.”

It’s a powerful lesson, whether healing or being healed.