When the coronavirus made its way to Long Island, Anthony Martino, a certified therapeutic recreation specialist at Northwell Health’s Southside Hospital, knew he had to find a way to help on the frontline.
“When I looked around the halls, everyone was bracing for what seemed like a very serious situation,” said Martino, a 1996 SJC Long Island graduate with a B.S. in Therapeutic Recreation. “The only way I can describe it is that it felt like a battlefield.”
Martino, a rehabilitation aid in the Outpatient Department for STARS Rehabilitation at Southside, joined a team of health care professionals who reposition patients on ventilators to help their lung capacity, known as proning.
“I felt confident…that I was going to make a difference,” Martino said of the work he’s doing with the prone team, comprised of physicians, nurses and environmental workers, among others.
The relatively new therapy being used on COVID-19 patients has shown some positive results.
“Studies have shown that patients who get turned have improved oxygenation status and may recover quicker,” said Martino, who has assisted in moving more than 310 patients to date.
Martino, who normally helps patients during therapy sessions and promotes community integration, feels confident he and his prone team are making a difference.
“(I’m proud) to be amongst a group of people who not only want to make a difference, but who went that extra mile by actually stepping outside their comfort zone, rolling up their sleeves, and offering hands-on help to the patients and the nurses in the hospital,” he said.
Martino is extremely grateful for the colleagues he’s now working alongside, as they are helping him get through the good days and the bad.
“There were many good times and, sadly, a lot of horrific experiences,” he shared. “A simple look at each other during those terrible moments somehow made things a little easier. We were in fact growing together as a unit.
“When we all have moved on to whatever the future holds and things seem like what they should be, I want (my team) to know that I will have taken so much from this experience,” Martino added.
This story is part of OnCampus’ “Answering the Call” series, focusing on St. Joseph’s College students and alumni working outside their homes in essential jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.