Jared Davis and Andrea Alonte met in English class in the 11th grade. It was 2009, worlds away from 2020 and the current pandemic.
"I liked him and asked my friend to talk to him for me. You know how it is when you're in high school," says Andrea.
Eventually, the two got to know each other. "We didn't have assigned seats, so we were able to sit next to each other in class. But the teacher had to separate us because we talked too much," she says.
As for Jared, he says, "After the first year we were together, I told my mom this is the girl I want to marry. And the rest is history."
The high school sweethearts married in 2017.
A shared passion to help people
Presently, the Davises are both nurses at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. Jared is assigned to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit and Andrea works in the Medical Intensive Care Unit, where they help the sickest patients with COVID-19.
"I love taking care of patients," says Andrea, whose mother is also a nurse. "When I started nursing school and had my first clinical rotation, I felt this is exactly where I belonged. And when I was in the ICU, I knew it was meant to be," she says.
Jared initially wanted a career in law enforcement, following in the footsteps of his parents, who are both police officers. He also had a calling to help and serve, but he had a change of heart after memories of caring for his elderly grandmother during middle school led him to become a nurse.
"Before school, my mom and I would go to my grandma's house and help her get set up for the day, get her breakfast and help with her clothes."
Ultimately, his family brought in a hospice nurse to help. "I remember the nurse talking to me and saying how great it would be if I went into nursing," he says. The experience made a lasting impression on Jared.
Working in the ICU
As nurses in the ICU, Jared and Andrea routinely treat patients who require the highest level of care. They have specialized skills, extensive training and knowledge of disease pathology to provide interventions to sustain life.
The ICU is always busy and at times intense; it's where the most critically ill patients are treated. There are negative pressure rooms, which are designed to prevent germs from being pushed out through ventilation systems or corridors so they can't infect others — ideal for patients with COVID-19, given the highly contagious nature of the disease.
"We have something to talk about all the time," says Andrea.
Often, the couple exchange information and best practices that are useful to each other's teams, such as when a patient is experiencing a life-threatening emergency, also known as a code blue.
"If we have a code blue, we have to enter the patient room and initiate CPR," she says. While this might be a scary scenario for most individuals fearful of exposing themselves to the virus, the couple feel safe and protected.
"Sharp does a really good job to make sure we have personal protection equipment and everything we need when we go into a room," says Jared. "The hospital also lets us change into OR scrubs so we don't have to use our own," he says. This means the couple can change into their own clean clothes before leaving the hospital to head home.
Andrea adds, "We're in full-blown gear: gowns, goggles, face shields, N95 face masks, hairnets, double gloves and shoe covers. Sometimes it can get pretty hot."
Their responsibilities are similar and include assisting doctors with intubating patients when necessary. The procedure involves placing a breathing tube into the mouth and down the throat of the patient. The tube is connected to a ventilator, a machine that mimics breathing and allows oxygen to circulate throughout the body, so the lungs can rest and recover.
"Patients are also pronated, and we shift them from side to side," says Andrea. Pronating, or turning patients onto their stomach, is a common practice that helps patients with lung expansion and oxygenation.
For the safety of everyone, families of patients with COVID-19 aren't typically able to visit loved ones, although exceptions are now being made in end-of-life situations. One of the most rewarding, yet difficult, aspects of their job is bridging the communication gap between patients and families.
"We use iPads for Zoom calls and spend time with families over cellphones to connect and help ease their anxiety," says Jared.
Andrea shares loving details about their care. For women, she washes their hair and sometimes braids it. And when men have a 5 o'clock shadow, she gives them a clean, fresh shave.
"Families like hearing that even though their loved ones may be in the hospital, they're getting a little bit of pampering," she says.
Self-care and a new adventure
Being an ICU nurse can be an intense job. But living in Ocean Beach and hanging out with their vivacious pair of Labrador retrievers, Nikko and Hudson, give Jared and Andrea the dose of relaxation and adventure they need to recharge when they're away from the hospital.
"Even though we have the beach in our own backyard, we love going to Coronado. It feels like a getaway. We grab a doughnut, watch the waves and de-stress," says Andrea.
Besides beach adventures with their "fur babies," they'll soon be embarking on a new adventure: parenthood. They are expecting their first baby in February 2021.
Jared says, "I've been wanting this for a while, so I was more excited than she was when we found out."
While pregnant, Andrea's work responsibilities have been altered to limit her contact with patients.
As for a preference for a boy or a girl, the happy couple says, "We just want a healthy child."
For the news media: To talk with Jared and Andrea Davis about their experience taking care of patients with COVID-19 for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at email@example.com.