Tiffany Mims (center) says her family, parents Tracy and Terrell Mims (left) and sister and brother-in-law Taylor and Daniel Carter (right), acknowledged early in the pandemic, ‘You come with germs, and we accept you as you are.’
Photo courtesy of Tiffany Mims

Tiffany Mims on being a nurse who cared for COVID-19 patients— ‘The Lord was making my path go the way it needed to go’

By Tiffany Mims
Special to The Alabama Baptist

My name is Tiffany Mims. I live in Millbrook with my parents and attend HisWay Community Church in Prattville.

I’ve been a registered nurse for 10 years. I worked at Baptist Medical Center South in Montgomery in the emergency room for two years, and I’ve been in a family care office for the past eight years.

It’s been about four months since we started hearing the majority of things about the pandemic, and like everybody else, I was very anxious at the beginning. In our office, we looked at the numbers every single day, and we could see the number of COVID-19 cases rising all the time. It became quite scary.

I went through a phase of feeling guilty because I saw other nurses and doctors working on the frontlines in New York and Washington. I was praying about it, and the Lord gave me an opportunity to actually work in our community with COVID patients one-on-one. I got pulled from my clinic to go to Elmore Community Hospital in Wetumpka to care for patients there for three months.

I went from being anxious to feeling much more at peace. The Lord was making my path go the way it needed to go. I didn’t need to fly to New York to take care of people. I could stay right here in my own community and do the same thing.

Life in the hospital

At the hospital, we had two different halls. One hall was shut off from regular patients and that was our COVID unit. Then we had “normal” sick patients on a different hall so they were separated. We had to put on a gown, mask, sometimes a face shield if you didn’t wear glasses — which I do, so I didn’t have to worry about that — and gloves every time we walked into a patient’s room. And then as we came out, we took all of that gear off and washed up. Then, if they called five seconds later, we did it all over again.

The majority of our patients have been elderly from nursing homes. Most of them actually have not been super-duper sick. They had to evacuate a lot of the nursing homes so they wouldn’t contaminate the rest of the nursing home population.

We got a lot of people, some who didn’t even show symptoms at all. Some did have mild symptoms like cough and fever, but most of them got better in a week.

Still, we had to hold onto them until they were negative for two different tests.

A couple of our patients were there for almost two months, so we really got to know each of these patients for a long amount of time, much longer than you would your normal patients.

Close calls

We had a couple of close calls where people were really, really sick, and we thought they were on the verge of dying. We just continued treatment, which, for COVID, there’s no specific treatment. We were treating symptoms and underlying conditions like pneumonia.

We see a lot of death on a daily basis in the medical field. We’ve had multiple patients who scared us, thinking that they were on the brink of death, and they came back and made a full recovery and were able to go back home or to their nursing home.

It was nice to be able to not have that dreadful part where people are dying on their own or you’re the person holding their hand as they die because their family can’t be there. To be able to send them back so that when this is all over they can see their family was special.

For us, staffing was a challenge. We had two people pulled from my office, which was doing a little less business because people were scared to go see the doctor because of COVID. We got pulled to the hospital, but even that sometimes was not enough, so we were taking care of more patients than normal.

A few of us were doing the work of a lot of people. I was getting more hours at the hospital than I was getting at the clinic, and a pay raise came with that. I was able to get a blessing of financial security to help my family maintain a normal pattern of life.

Of course, I always am concerned about getting sick. That’s a natural thing with being a nurse. This is my daily life.

But thinking about bringing sickness home to my family was more scary to me than getting sick myself. My mom has asthma, so I made sure I followed all the extra precautions, like getting my scrubs off and getting in the shower before I see anybody else, spraying everything down, leaving clothes outside.

I’m concerned about spreading things to the community and to those I love.

My parents were a little concerned at first, but they said, “If we get sick, we’d rather it be from you than from somebody else.” I said, “That is not how that works! Let me be concerned about these things!” At first I was scared to hug them or anything else like that but they said, “No, really, I need a hug. I need you to continue living your life and not be extraordinarily concerned. We’ll get through whatever happens.”

So I take precautions but we’ve been able to breathe a little bit easier as time has gone on. They say, “You come with germs, and we accept you as you are.”

Trusting God

I continue to lean into the Lord. When we’re anxious — and He tells us not to be anxious, but He knows it’s a natural reaction for us — we can still lean into Him and go to Him for peace and comfort. We know that He is sovereign, and He’s in control.

That’s a comfort to me, knowing that I don’t have to be in control of everything. I know God is still in control, and that’s powerful to me.

Everything I do in my life, I try to take as lessons to move forward and be a better human and to follow the Lord in a better way.

I hope all these unforeseeable things that happen in life continue to help me lean on the Lord and walk in His ways and live my life to His glory and make other peoples’ lives hopefully better too.

I’m super thankful for the online community that churches have embraced. Our church was already posting stuff on Facebook routinely before COVID hit, but we really embraced using Zoom and Facebook as an outlet for us to all get together.

Everybody had impromptu meetings as well and embraced social media in a way that we hadn’t in the past to be able to spend more time with each other.

I’m thankful we live in an age where we can do those things —  that we’re not just locked away from one another and can’t be together. That’s been a major blessing through the church to be able to continue to interact when you can’t meet in person.

EDITOR’S NOTE — As told to Margaret Colson. In Their Own Words is an oral history of Alabama Baptists during COVID-19. The interview has been edited for clarity and space.