Adventures in biocontainment

Anticipation was mounting, as a group of media waited to observe and cover the training exercise of the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, a few months ago. A “patient” was being rushed in, and she’d be whisked up to the unit, in hope of preventing a global pandemic.

“It will be like the movie ‘Contagion,’ ” said Taylor Wilson, senior media relations coordinator, The Nebraska Medical Center.

Wait – what if we’ve never seen “Contagion”?!

Wilson paused. He also had not seen “Contagion.”

Anybody here seen “Contagion”?

The “patient” is rushed from the ambulance into the hospital. (Photo courtesy The Nebraska Medical Center)

Saw part on cable once

“I’m guessing it’s about something contagious,” a TV reporter said.

“I think I saw part of ‘Outbreak’ once,” someone said.

We were woefully unprepared.

Luckily, there was coffee. This was an especially homey global pandemic.

Beware of media

Then, the ambulance came. “Woop! Woooop!” It backed up. The patient was rolled out, was taken inside. The doors closed.

Wait a minute. Don’t we get to chase them down the hallway?

“We don’t want to create a real panic,” Wilson said.

That’s true. A bunch of people in biohazard suits rushing down the hallway – no problem. A horde of media with cameras? Actual panic.

Ah, memories

So, we met them upstairs. Somehow, we beat them.

“This is the Biocontainment Unit,” a man said.

Yes. Of course. I saw the “Cover your cough” sign on the door.

Then, here they came. Hooded biohazard suits. The patient enclosed in a bubble. And she had a camera. This struck me as odd. A camera, while you’re being rushed into the Biocontainment Unit?

Some people scrapbook everything.

The space suits are cool — but note the camera. (Photo courtesy The Nebraska Medical Center)

Just ask

It took a while for the media horde to follow, as the Biocontainment Unit has double doors which can’t be open at the same time, like the butterfly exhibit at the Henry Doorly Zoo.

The people in the biohazard suits worked diligently. It was impressive.

“Does anyone have any questions about what’s going on?” asked Kate Boulter, RN.

“Yes,” I said. Just one: “What’s going on?”

She told me.


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