Fighting coronavirus: Seaman Gonzales treats COVID-19 patients in Louisiana

Drew Butler
Seaman Christina Gonzales, a Sailor with Expeditionary Medical Facility-M and a native of Ardmore, prepares to bathe and change a patient at Baton Rouge General Mid City campus on May 5. The 100 EMF-M personnel are part of the Department of Defense COVID-19 response, and they staff two 30-bed COVID wards.

A former Ardmore resident is on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19. Seaman Christina Gonzales is a member of the Expeditionary Medical Facility-M, and the 100 member team is currently staffing two 30-bed coronavirus wards in Baton Rouge, La. as part of the Department of Defense COVID-19 response.

The team works closely with state and local health authorities to ensure the well-being of their personnel and the local population. Rather than replacing existing staff, they are there to work with them and ease the strain of a surge in significant care patients.

Seaman Gonzales was born and raised in California and moved to Ardmore with her family after graduating from high school. She lived in the city for around a year working as a waitress at Sirloin Stockade prior to joining the Navy three years ago.

She said she enjoyed her time in the area and regularly returns to the area to visit family and friends.

“While I was there I met some great people who are still some of my best friends,” Gonzales said. “My mom and some of my siblings are still there so I go back and visit when I can.”

Gonzalez joined the Navy because she knew she wanted to work in the medical profession and saw it as a great opportunity to learn about life.

“Ever since I was little I’ve always wanted to have a career that involves helping people in some way,” Gonzales said. “As I got older I realized I was really interested in the medical field. In high school I took an anatomy and physiology class and it was by far my favorite. I think that’s when I knew I wanted to do something in healthcare.”

She is currently stationed in Jacksonville, Fla. and was deployed with the Expeditionary Medical Facility-M to Louisiana as part of the COVID-19 response. She was initially sent to New Orleans before going to the Baton Rouge General Mid City Campus.

She described what it is like to work with coronavirus patients.

“For me, the most challenging part of working with COVID-19 patients is emotional,” Gonzales said. “I’m a caring person, so when I have elderly patients whose family can’t visit I really feel for them. That’s why I do my best to make them feel comfortable, and spend as much time as I can in their rooms just talking to them. In my previous clinic experience, our patients came and went in the same day. I feel like this experience has definitely given me the chance to get closer with some of them and understand more of what they’re going through.”

She said it’s the small things that make the biggest impact on the patients mental health.

“We’ve done a prayer circle for a patient who lost a brother,” Gonzales said. “I made a calendar so the patient could better keep track of the days, gave haircuts, prayed, and just talked and got to know them. All of those tiny little things make the biggest difference and I never realized that before.”

Gonzales said she is considering re-enlisting after her current contract is up, but even if she does not, she knows she wants to continue working in the medical profession.

“I know that I definitely want to stay in the medical field because I really love it,” Gonzales said. “The next thing I’m planning on doing is nursing school, but I’m unsure of what comes after that. I’ll decide when the time comes.”