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MEET YOUR ORANGE COUNTY COVID TEAM

By editor
July 1, 2020

A Message from our CMO-

With movie theaters being closed, I’ve found- like many of you-the magic of Netflix. And since I do not have sports to follow, I gravitated towards sports movies. 

I found that no matter what era or sport, the main characters varied little. It appears that success of a team is predicated on a stereotyped group of defined roles.

It reminded me of the Caduceus Covid Team we assembled in mid-March to objectively diagnose and treat the wave of cases we were diagnosing.  The characters were eerily similar. There are many advantages to treating some conditions with a team approach, and a new serious one like Covid has been best fought with just such a team. 

Like an old sports movie, there is always a head coach who is tough but fair. In the older movies, he wore a fedora and chomped on an unlit cigar. His game plan appeared to yelling things like "GO GO GO" and "FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!!”
“Yours truly” is the Covid Team’s "head coach.” I actually do have a fedora, and when gatherings were allowable, was known to enjoy a cigar at a summer BBQ. And with the volume our team has with Covid cases, the strategy of yelling GO! and FIGHT! has been effective.

Then there is the quarterback- good looking, popular, and pulls off the winning score by overruling the head coach and calling some creative off the wall plays.
Our quarterback Is Dr. Mary DeNicola (Doctor of Nursing Practice).  I hope to avoid political backlash by divulging Mary is my wife of 44 years, as I say she is good looking and popular. And she has consistently pulled off one win after another, fighting off this unpredictable and deadly bug. We form the game- I mean treatment -plan together, but she is on the iPad over 12 hours a day making creative and life-saving decisions on our Covid patients. I know with her “play calling” our patients are in excellent hands.

Of course, every winning team has excellent Special Teams. 

Our OBGYN Covid consultant is Dr. Nathaniel DeNicola, Senior Fellow on Health Economics and Chair of the ACOG Department of Telehealth. Yes, you do see a trend--to be a member of the team it does help to be named DeNicola--and in Nathaniel’s case, my first born son. As a board certified OBGYN, we refer him cases involving GYN issues and all Covid patients that are pregnant.  Yes, they have special needs that require a specialist with Covid knowledge and experience.

Our pediatric Covid consultant is Dr. Cyndy Krepps-Hoffer (another Dr. of Nursing Practice) with the most beautiful South Carolinian accent on Earth.  And astonishingly, she is NOT a DeNicola! She is an excellent clinician with extraordinary diagnostic skills, which is so important with pediatric Covid cases. All Covid related kids issues are referred to Cyndy, under the auspices of the team. Recently, Cyndy diagnosed a MultiSystem Inflammatory Syndrome in a child that previous doctors had missed. This condition hits kids with Covid exposure, yet they do not test positive. A few days in the ICU and -thanks to Cyndy--a life saved.

One roll in all sports movies is the “play by play’ guy. He keeps the audience up to date on the goings-on, and despite trying to be objective always roots for the home team. When they win the big game, he beats up the announcer on his left with a rolled up program, who coincidentally always was for the other team. Our play by play person is Talia Wright. Whew! Another non-DeNicola. Actually Talia's maiden name IS DeNicola, and yes -full disclosure--is my sister. 
Acting as a concierge, she keeps all the patients and providers informed, of appointments and results, late into the night if necessary.  I do not believe she has ever beaten anyone with a program, she can get quite irate when labs delay test results.

Another essential character is the water boy (water person in 21st century jargon). He offers comic relief, always smiling and joking around. He has the uniforms clean, Gatorade handy, helmets painted, and talks the star player into playing in the Big Game despite his girlfriend dumping him.
Our water person is Pam Dukes. Pam is not related by blood, however has been in the DeNicola family almost 50 years and has a permanent smile painted on her face. She keeps the team in good spirits and does whatever it takes to oversee 200 patients with Covid and related conditions. Phone calls, getting the video visits working, tracking down labs, and even making daily runs to TruBru coffee house next door to keep everyone awake. Without Pam, there is no team.

I understand  nepotism invites criticism . But I counter with an iron clad argument--using pizza of course (the Covid Team’s theme). You have all had Pizza Hut--and it is a competent pizza. They are a big pizza system, and have many resources available to them. 

Now compare with the pizza at Tony’s Little Italy in Placentia. Tony’s is family owned and run by Tony Manzella since 1978, with his wife and son (also named Tony).  They aren't part of a big company. Yet you taste the care and passion the Manzella family brings to their pizza--the best I have ever tasted. And I admit to tasting a LOT of pizzas!
I pray our Covid team matches Tony’s results with Covid instead of Pizza.

The team enrolls patients from positive swabs or antibody tests, and referral from friends and other doctors. All visits are conducted by telemedicine, varying from daily to weekly appointments. Treatment protocols are followed and change frequently, depending on what we see working and not working.

We prescribe total isolation while infected. 

And total bedrest. 

We trace close contacts--which we define as being within five feet for at least 15 minutes the 15 days prior to symptoms or a positive test. Yes, we know the two week incubation period and six feet rule. But 5-15-15 is easier to remember. 

Depending on details of the case, we prescribe the "Double Z's" and the Covid Cocktail. (Further described in a previous blog).

Our #1 goal is to have Covid patients die far in the future of something OTHER than Covid. #2 goal is to keep them off of a ventilator. So far, we are batting a thousand on both goals. 

ADVICE?
1.  If you test positive, self-isolate. Do not leave your room. Get under the care of a doctor or team. It doesn't need to be ours. But do NOT attempt to ride it out our on your own. That could be a fatal mistake.

2. If you test antibody positive, prepare to repeat it every few months to ensure the immunity is working.

3. If you have Covid, call all your contacts you were within 5 feet of for over 15 minutes within the past 15 days. Get them tested.

4. If you have Covid and are pregnant or are post-operative from a gynecological surgery, you need a specialist.  If you are positive and are under 18, you need a pediatric specialist.   It does not have to be our special teams but you do need special treatment.

5. Know if you're contagious. Know if you’re immune. Test.Test.Test

This is our Covid Team. We will expand it as the virus grows. We treat aggressively, and change protocols frequently. And we work very hard- no hunkering down for the TEAM.

To end with a word from the coach to the team (with apologies to Herb Brooks)-- Covid Team, great moments are born from great opportunity. You were meant to be here. This is your time. Now go out there and BEAT COVID!!!

Gregg Denicola MD
Chief Medical Officer 
Caduceus Medical Group

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