LI School Nurse Shares Her Experience With Coronavirus

LONG ISLAND, NY — A Long Island school nurse spent the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic educating students on how to stay healthy and prevent spreading the virus — but now after contracting COVID-19 herself, she is hoping to spread more awareness about the effects of the virus.

Cheryl Williams first started feeling symptoms of the disease in early April. The week before, her husband started feeling symptoms and eventually got sick himself. Williams thought she had isolated her husband soon after he got sick, but eventually the coronavirus spread to her and her two children.

At first, she just started feeling some muscle pain but didn’t think too much of it. Soon after Williams, who has asthma, started feeling an asthmatic cough and experienced gastrointestinal issues. She also had a fever for 12 days and lost her sense of taste and smell.

Williams took a COVID-19 test a few days after she first felt symptoms and it came back positive. For two weeks, she said she was feeling “extremely” ill. She used several natural remedies to help with her symptoms, including eating foods with lots of garlic and ginger to control her nausea and steam to clear her lungs. She also used chest physiotherapy to improve her breathing.

“I felt like there were days I wasn’t going to make it,” Williams told Patch.

Fast-forward six months later. While Williams no longer has the coronavirus, she is still feeling lasting effects. She says she and her oldest son are experiencing extreme fatigue to this day.

But Williams, who is also an author, is not letting that stop her from educating others and sharing her story. In those months she was not working due to schools being closed, she wrote about it and made YouTube videos.

“I wanted to give these people a voice, because there’s so much pent-up stress and frustration with this virus and how it affects us,” she said. “I know people will think I’m crazy but there are benefits [to the pandemic] and I think that yes, there were situations where we will pulled apart because of the whole pandemic but there’s situations where we come together and if we focus on coming together because we do need each other to get through this and empower each other.”

Williams said she still feels a lot of people are taking the pandemic too lightly.

“Even before I became a school nurse, I worked in a hospital setting and in a nursing home, so I know how contagious and how crazy these viruses can be. It’s so unpredictable,” she said. “One thing I learned is that COVID-19 is something that we should not sleep on, never take lightly.”

Now that she is back to work, she is back to educating and helping students and staff around her to practice healthy habits such as hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing, constantly.

“I’m always grateful for life but after this pandemic … there were days I didn’t even think I

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Nurse urges Montanans to take politics out of COVID fight

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An emergency room nurse urged Montana residents to take politics out of the fight against the coronavirus Tuesday, as the number of cases in the state reached 24,000, the death toll surpassed 250 and hospitals are caring for 360 patients.

Health care workers come from a variety of political, socioeconomic and religious backgrounds, Charlotte Skinner said.

“But we’ve always found a common ground to stand on. And that common ground is called science, evidence-based practice and a patient-first mentality,” she said.

“I have never and I will never run into the room of a patient in distress and ask them how they vote,” said Skinner, a registered nurse at St. Peter’s Health in Helena. “People in health care don’t discriminate and neither does this virus.”

“I’m asking you to stop segregating yourselves into maskers and anti-maskers and to stand with us on the common ground of science and evidence, which is clearly telling us that masking works,” Skinner said.

Montana reported 706 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and a total of 252 deaths. Of the 360 people who are hospitalized, 64 are in intensive care and 39 are on ventilators, the state health department said.

Montana has the fifth-highest rate of newly confirmed infections per capita, though the rate of deaths is among the lowest in the U.S., according to data Tuesday from Johns Hopkins.

Montana hospitals are reaching a breaking point, Skinner said. But the pressure can be relieved if a majority of residents wear masks consistently and diligently, she said.

“We are on the brink of seeing a surge capacity like we have never seen before,” Skinner warned. “And make no mistake, this will affect our ability to provide the best possible care.”

Gov. Steve Bullock also urged residents to follow guidelines such as wearing masks, washing hands and physical distancing to reduce the strain on the state’s healthcare workers.

“If all of us at times feel fatigue from this virus, imagine what an emergency room nurse feels, or other front line health care workers,” Bullock said.

In other news related to the coronavirus pandemic:

— Montana’s unemployment rate fell to 5.3% in September, down from 5.6% in August. The unemployment rate was 3.5% before the pandemic began and rose to as high as 11.9% in April. Montana’s Department of Labor has paid over $1 billion in unemployment benefits to more than 100,000 Montanans since the beginning of the pandemic, Bullock said Tuesday.

— Montana has submitted a preliminary plan to distribute a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available, with priority given to front line health care workers, the elderly, Native Americans and those with underlying medical conditions, Bullock said.

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A nurse repeatedly voiced concern about a Chesapeake doctor’s unusual surgery practices to supervisors. Nothing happened, she says

Most every Friday afternoon, Dr. Javaid Perwaiz performed outpatient surgeries at a medical center in Suffolk.

And while there were lots of other doctors who operated regularly at the Bon Secours Surgery Center at Harbour View, there were none quite like Dr. Perwaiz, operating room nurse Jean Kennedy said.

His schedule was so packed and fast-paced the surgical center’s staff had a special name for it: the Perwaiz-a-thon.

“When someone asked you what are you doing today, staff would frequently say, ‘I’ve got the Perwaiz-a-thon,’” Kennedy said during testimony Monday in U.S. District Court in Norfolk. “It was an extremely busy tempo. Very stressful. At times it was chaotic.”

Perwaiz, 70, a longtime obstetrician-gynecologist who had offices in Chesapeake for decades, is on trial for multiple counts of heath care fraud, making false statements related to health care and identity theft. The trial began Wednesday and could last more than a month.

Prosecutors allege that Perwaiz frequently performed unnecessary surgeries and procedures, regularly induced labor for pregnant patients two weeks before they were due, and changed dates on forms to make it look like he was complying with insurance rules and regulations.

Kennedy testified Perwaiz typically had more than one operating room in use on Fridays and bounced back and forth between them. The other doctors just had one, she said.

And while the other doctors had their patients check in at staggered times, all of Perwaiz’s patients were told to report at the same time. Many of them didn’t seem to understand why they were having surgery, she said. And many had been there before.

“It was a first-come, first-serve basis,” she said. “There was no set schedule. It was just whoever was prepped and ready.”

The practice made Kennedy nervous because she feared it could lead to confusion and mistakes, she said.

Kennedy also said she occasionally saw the doctor write down post-surgery notes, in which he lists what he saw and did during the procedure, before the operation had even begun.

And unlike the other doctors, Perwaiz never used a scope with a camera on the end that could project images from inside the patient’s body onto a monitor for everyone in the operating room to see, she said.

Kennedy, who had once been a patient of Perwaiz and had worked in his office for a couple of years, said she and other hospital employees told supervisors of their concerns about Perwaiz’s unusual and concerning practices.

“They were fully aware,” she testified.

“And what happened?” prosecutor John Butler asked. “Nothing,” she said. “Things continued as they always had.”

In other testimony Monday, a 51-year-old former patient told jurors how she went to see Perwaiz after learning she had an abnormal pap smear. The woman had already survived breast cancer and feared getting cancer again.

The woman said Perwaiz performed one procedure, told her it didn’t work and that she’d need to get a hysterectomy. She said she was adamant about having it done vaginally because

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A nurse saw a Chesapeake doctor do questionable things for years. She also got gifts totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Margo Stone did a little bit of everything over the nearly three decades that she worked for Dr. Javaid Perwaiz.

Her job titles included nurse, office administrator, and bookkeeper. She assisted Perwaiz in the examining rooms, checked patient’s blood pressure and weight, ordered supplies, paid bills, recorded deposits, and handled the payroll and payroll taxes.

She also had a romantic relationship with the longtime obstetrician-gynecologist now on trial for more than 60 criminal charges in U.S. District Court in Norfolk.

Prosecutors allege that Perwaiz, 70, performed unneeded work on patients for years in order to fund a lavish lifestyle. He’s charged with multiple counts of health care fraud, making false statements related to health care matters and identity theft. His jury trial began Wednesday and could last more than a month.

Stone told jurors she first started working part-time as a nurse for Perwaiz in the early 1990s and later became a full-time employee. Over the years, her responsibilities grew. So, too, did her relationship with the doctor.

He spent lots of time with Stone, her husband and two sons, Stone testified. He became a kind of grandfather figure for the boys, now in their 20s. He paid for the boys’ high school and college tuitions and bought the oldest son a car. The boys eventually started calling him Papa.

Perwaiz hung the boys’ framed portraits on the walls of his office and put their initials on the license plate of one of his cars.

Stone also got lots of gifts from the doctor. She estimated that he gave her about 10 watches, each valued at $2,000. She also got purses, sunglasses, and jewelry. She even shared an American Express card with him that she used to buy things for herself and her sons.

When asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Butler to estimate the total value of the gifts that Perwaiz gave her over the years, her response: “Several hundred thousand dollars.”

And while Stone testified that she would have stopped working for the doctor immediately if she ever thought he did anything that would put a patient’s safety in jeopardy, she said she saw him do some things that were questionable.

One day when she was filling in at the main office, she said she saw him examining a patient with an instrument that was broken. She immediately ordered a new part for it.

When staff complained that he wasn’t sterilizing a piece of equipment for the recommended amount of time, she said she confronted him and he agreed to wait in the future. And when she heard patients complain about having to undergo too many surgeries, she confronted him about that, too.

“Sometimes he seemed to listen, sometimes he did not,” she said.

Stone also said she knew that he wasn’t using some instruments properly and occasionally saw him alter information on patients records.

In other testimony Friday, two of Perwaiz’s former patients told jurors how the doctor recommended they get a hysterectomy after they

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