Tiffany Johnson-W

Nursing graduate helped treat pandemic’s first official U.S. case

Nursing graduate helped treat pandemic’s first official U.S. case

Thu Apr 30, 2020

Tiffany Johnson

LEFT: Tiffany Johnson, front, is pictured with her boyfriend, Kevin Moulin. CENTER: Johnson poses for a picture recently without her PPE during a break. RIGHT: Johnson, right, is pictured in full PPE gear recently with a coworker at the Ochsner Emergency Room in Plaquemine, La.

Tiffany Johnson has been on the front lines of the United State’s Coronavirus crisis from the very start. In fact, she assisted with the treatment of the first official COVID-19 American patient.

Johnson, a 2013 Brazosport College Associate Degree of Nursing graduate, was an Emergency Room nurse at Washington state’s Providence Regional Medical Center Everett when the country’s first COVID-19 case — commonly known as Patient 0 — was confirmed positive at the facility on Jan. 20.

At the time, she and her boyfriend, Kevin, also an ER nurse, had already accepted new jobs as travel nurses. However, they were finishing up their tenures at the Washington hospital, helping their colleagues get through a busy flu season.

Then, a man who had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, was tested and received a positive diagnosis for COVID-19.

“The patient did the right thing,” Johnson said. “He called his doctor and his doctor called the health department, so he was at home in quarantine while we decided what to do. He was a very thoughtful human being.”

Once admitted, the hospital and its staff treated the patient with many necessary precautions, which included 24-hour care in full PPE gear. As an ER nurse, Johnson wasn’t part of the patient’s everyday intensive care team, but she did provide coverage. The patient has since recovered.

“An enormous amount of people worked around him to make sure he survived, especially when he started to turn a little bit,” she said. “But much of it in the beginning was a learning process.”

Months later, many experts now believe there was American COVID-19 spread before this case, but this is still registered as the first official case in the United States.

Having completed her time in Washington, Johnson is now on assignment with her boyfriend at an ER near Baton Rouge, La. They are continuing to see patients with Coronavirus.

For Johnson, who is originally from Alvin, just the thought of being in this situation would have been unfathomable 15 years ago. At that time, she was in her early 30s and helping to provide care for her grandmother in West Columbia.

“I was always interested in the medical field; I was even an EMT back in the day,” she said. “But with my grandmother, it was about six years of caregiving with her and I really saw the difference a good nurse could make.”

Soon after, she enrolled in BC’s nursing school at age 36 and earned her degree at 38.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are, they will show you how you can do it,” she said. “So here I am, now at 45, working as a travel ER nurse. I’ve had six years of heavy trauma experience in a level 2 trauma center, and it’s all because I got a wild hair one day and went down to BC and asked, ‘What do you guys think about me going to your nursing school?’”

As for her thoughts about getting through the current pandemic, Johnson urges people to stay at home, if possible. She also repeats the experts’ advice to wash your hands and cover your mouths. Most importantly, however, she reminds everyone to remember all those on the front lines — many of whom aren’t in the medical field.

“For us in the medical field, it’s amazing to see all the support we’ve received from our communities,” she said. “But I want to give a shout out to the people driving trucks to make sure we have food, the farmers still going out in the fields, the grocery store clerks, the pharmacy clerks and all the other people who never thought they’d be on the front lines of an epidemic, but they suddenly are. There is no way we could do what we do if these people weren’t stepping up and continuing to go to work every day.

“We are living in a reality that we didn’t envision ourselves living in six months ago,” she added. “Be as safe as you can and make the best decisions that you can make. And remember to be kind to yourself and those around you.”