Dad, daughter share view of COVID-19 front lines

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A dad and daughter have a unique perspective on essential work during the COVID-19 response: He’s the lead technician for the hospital where she’s treating patients. 

Don Caniff has spent 15 years as Feyen Zylstra’s lead technician for its contract with Spectrum Health. The company is responsible for hospital infrastructure and connectivity. 

Caniff’s daughter, Molly, is an emergency department nurse at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital.

“I find myself going back and checking on her at least once or twice a day while I’m there,” Don Caniff told News 8 during a video interview beside his daughter.

“It’s nice to see a familiar face and see and check on him and see how he’s holding up and he checks on me to see how I’m holding up,” Molly Caniff added.

Technicians have been focused on ensuring the hospital is capable of responding to and treating the virus, which means expanding connectivity capabilities.

“We’ve been running fiber optics for the COVID tents. We’ve been putting up wireless access points, trying to put Ascom bases up for the nurses and doctors to keep the flow going. The infrastructure for us has been very busy,” Don Caniff explained.

Feyen Zylstra employees have put in more than 12,000 hours related to essential contracts since Michigan’s stay-home order first went into effect last month. 

It’s a lot of work people don’t often think about.

“If you think about what’s happened in the last several weeks, (hospitals have) had to pivot their business model quite a bit and they’re taking spaces and utilizing them in ways maybe they weren’t originally designed for,” Feyen Zylstra Director of Sales and Operations Derek Hunderman told News 8. “So, it can be a temporary tent to stage testing or intake, it could be moving nursing stations around and any time they make those changes, there’s some infrastructure behind the scenes.”

Molly Caniff believes her dad’s role is just as important as hers at the hospital.

“If they don’t have the title of a doctor or nurse, that doesn’t mean they’re not on the front lines. At the end of the day, our goal is the same. It’s to take care of our community. It’s to take care of patients and each other,” she said. “We can’t do our job without everybody else, IT environmental services, registration, security officers and I think a lot of times that gets forgotten.”

**Correction: A previous version of the article provided an incorrect figure for the number of hours Feyen Zylstra employees put in related to essential contracts. The number has been update. We regret the error.