Online Information Technology Program Gives Graduate New Career and Lease on Life During Pandemic
“With Covid, this is actually a pretty scary time to be working in a hospital,” says Ramsey Florez, who has worked at Visalia’s Kaweah Delta District Hospital (KDDH) for 8-years. “It’s a whirlwind, and it’s changed our lives and policies.”
As a certified nursing assistant, Ramsey worked in direct contact with patients for several years. But a severe back injury that required surgery to stabilize his spine with rods and screws, ended his ability to physically interact with patients who might require lifting or other strenuous physical assistance.
“I provided ambulatory services which required a lot of pull-ups and turns for pre-and post-surgical patients,” he says. “I knew I had to do something else, so I moved to IT (Information Technology), so I wouldn’t have such a physically demanding job.”
Ramsey graduated from SJVC’s Online Information Technology program last March and made a smooth transition to the hospital’s Help Desk where he takes, dispatches, and tracks incoming calls. As a Help Desk Technician, he uses a tele-tracking system to input patient information and initiate calls for patient transport.
Standard patient care calls and transfer requests have given way to more urgent requests for information about the coronavirus. “For 8-9 hours of my shift I’m on my computer and phone arranging transportation for patients (who are at risk for the virus),” says Ramsey. “Most of the day we do a lot more screening of phone calls from people with Covid.”
Ramsey goes to work each day knowing the risk he is taking, but not feeling especially fearful. “People here are constantly cleaning elevators, doors and surfaces, so I think the risks are a lot higher in grocery stores, touching things people have touched. But to be honest, I’m not afraid at all. If I get sick, I’m more scared for my kids (Ariel and Payton) who both have asthma.”
Ramsey has a routine that exercises caution against bringing something unwelcome home with him. “Before I leave work, I treat my shoes with disinfectant spray. When I get home, I wash my hands right away and change my clothes that are washed every day.”
Ramsey wants to protect the life he and his wife Jessica have made for themselves and their children. One of the important reasons he expanded his education with SJVC’s Online Information Technology program was so that he could continue to work and provide the comforts they enjoy.
“The online program made me better able to do my job and be with my kids,” he says of the ability to complete assignments when it fit his work schedule and family activities. “I really enjoyed it and did really well.” Ramsey made the Dean’s List and received the Academic Excellence Award.
Online education is not for everybody. “You have to be more assertive and want to study, and this forces you to,” he cautions. “It requires a certain amount of discipline and independence. I didn’t want to retake any classes because it was all out-of-pocket for me. So, I couldn’t fail.”
Ramsey walked away with what he came for. “I did build my own computer, recently, from the ground up. I added software and probably wouldn’t have been able to do that a year ago, before the program. I got what I thought I would.”
Ramsey also got to prove something. “My uncle Mario (who passed away 8 years ago) always believed in me and told me I could do anything I wanted to because he saw my potential. ‘You’re a really smart kid’, he used to tell me. He got me a job as a bus boy when I was fourteen. I was a dish-washer, I was a prep cook.”
But Ramsey did not find that positive message of his potential for success at home. “Growing up Dad didn’t like us to cry or show fear,” he says. “I got through it with self-medication. I was fourteen and struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts.”
Looking back, he sees things with an expanded perspective. “It’s easy to blame other people. You just have to find yourself and push through it.” In later years Ramsey talked openly with his dad and they reached a greater understanding of each other.
Then his back injury and loss of identity when he was unable to perform the work with patients he had always enjoyed, sent him back to a depressed state. “It really got intense; I didn’t feel like I was the same person I wanted to be. I felt like I had to have a high tolerance for pain because I don’t like to ask for help.”
But this time he knew what to do. “I’ve been going to counseling for the past two years and realize it’s important to be vulnerable, to let people in,” says Ramsey.
“I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s books like The Gift of Imperfection and it’s really helped me get a grasp on life and what I want to do.” One of his favorite quotes from her is, “Most people believe vulnerability is a weakness. But really, vulnerability is courage. We must ask ourselves…are we willing to show up and be seen.”
That ‘smart kid’ has grown into a very accomplished and satisfied human being. “I’m pretty happy knowing that I had a goal that I achieved,” he says. “I’m the first in my immediate family to graduate from college. When I got my degree, I did cry a little bit, which was a neat feeling. My family is happy for me, but we kind of low-ball it. I needed to prove to myself that I could do it; but for me it’s still kind of fresh.”
Maybe Ramsey’s next goal is to get comfortable with being a little bit of a star.
Ramsey’s story took a dramatic turn when he contracted Covid mid July. “I woke up Thursday, July 16th with a headache, sporadic cough and fever,” he says. “I called a nurse in Urgent Care (KDDH) and let them know I would wait outside (hospital).” Ramsey was taken inside, swabbed for strep throat, x-rays were taken, and he was given a breathing treatment some Tylenol then sent home.
His test came back positive for Covid. “I had already self-quarantined in my bedroom,” says Ramsey. The next day he was having chest pains. “By Saturday if felt like someone was squeezing my heart; Sunday was worse. Monday I felt like a fish out of water; I couldn’t breathe.”
He had not choice but to get immediate medical attention. Ramsey was moved from one tent outside the hospital to another set up especially to treat Covid patients. There were more lab tests, more x-rays. “An ER doctor finally told me, ‘Covid is all over your lungs, and I’m concerned about your heart.’” The prognosis was not optimistic. “He told me, ‘We know how to treat this now. A couple of months back you would have been on your death bed and I would have told you to call your family and tell them goodbye.’”
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