As one of the registered dietitians at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, Amy Amyx, ‘00, has been working on the frontlines – dealing with various infectious diseases ranging from acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to H1N1 influenza (swine flu), but nothing has been as tough to deal with as the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“The COVID-19 epidemic has already shown its effects on our hospital,” said the veteran health care worker. “We have handled tough times here in the past and are now taking this in stride as we take all the necessary precautions. Honestly, it’s been emotional.”
Amyx has been working as a certified nutrition support clinician, attending to the nutritional needs of intensive care unit patients who must be fed through tubes or IVs. Despite the stress, Amyx enjoys her work.
She started her career in the medical field after graduating from Ball State with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics. After college, she completed a 50-week internship at Ball Hospital and begin as a registered dietitian in 2001.
“I really started working part-time at the hospital in 1999 before I completed my degree. It’s been a great experience,” she said. “Without my Ball State degree, I wouldn’t have my dream job.
‘Nutrition Support is My Passion’
Amyx covers the intensive care and progressive care units, which over the last few weeks have been designated as COVID-19 units. Many of her patients are intubated.
“A pharmacist and I collaborate to determine the best prescription of carbohydrate, protein, fat, electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals to meet each patient’s needs,” she said. “I love the numbers side of nutrition, which is why nutrition support is my passion. I love seeing the positive effects that appropriate nutrition intervention can have for our patients.”
When she isn’t determining the proper nutritional formulas for patients in ICU, Amyx has been working with hospital staff on planning for the coming weeks when Indiana is expected to see a surge in COVID-19 cases.
State officials believe Indiana’s peak of coronavirus illnesses could last into mid-May. The high percentage of smokers and elderly residents in Indiana means the population has a higher risk of life-threatening complications than elsewhere.
“At this time, I am still in house every day,” she said. “I do not enter patients’ rooms, so the only extra protective equipment I need is a surgical mask. I don’t feel as at risk as the nurses who do work closely with the patients. They are stressed. I can feel it. It makes my heart ache to see my friends when they are at risk.”
Waiting for Normalcy
Facing the potential deadly virus on a daily basis not only impacted the hospital staff, but also their families, Amyx said.
“My 70-year-old mom lives in Yorktown and she’s worried about me, but my two teenage children seem to be handling it OK,” she said. “My 13-year-old daughter is upset that her school has closed for the year, and she can’t see her friends. But my 16-year-old son is an introvert. He’s perfectly happy staying in his room and playing games all day long while in virtual classes.”
Like most people, Amyx can’t wait until some sort of normalcy returns so she can restart her work as a cheerleading coach at the local Cole Academy, which also offers dance and gymnastics for area youngsters.
There were more than a few tears shed when the facility closed down due to precautions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s very hard,” she said. “I simply miss working with the kids.”