Sam is a 30-year-old intensive care float nurse who has worked at Cox Hospital in Springfield for the last 5 years. Since COVID-19 broke out in Missouri, she has worked in the COVID unit as well as homeschooling her son. As the cases have dramatically increased this fall, seeing COVID patients has become a revolving door. “We moved a deceased patient out of the COVID ICU while simultaneously getting a new intubated one. I walk down the rows of patients counting which ones might make it. The ones who won’t always outnumber the ones who do.”
She has seen folks younger than her, younger than her parents and coworkers pass away from the virus. “I’ve seen pregnant women contract COVID and need premature c-sections. Their babies have to be intubated.” She has also seen patients lose their pulse in their limbs or have strokes as a result of the virus.
Sam is often the point of contact between her patients fighting COVID and their loved ones. Due to the nature of the virus, she has been there to hold patients’ hands, hold their phones to their ears so their families can speak to them, communicate with their families, and be with them in their last moments. “I’ve told family members they’ll never be able to see their loved one alive again because they are dying, and the family chooses not to come see them because they have too many risk factors themselves and they’re scared and we cry on the phone together.”
Once a patient is intubated and put on a ventilator, medical staff are limited in what else they can do. “I’ve flipped patients with oxygen saturations in the 60s who are maxed out in the ventilator onto their bellies and prayed that it would help because there’s nothing else to do.”
Seeing the uptick in the Ozarks, Sam is concerned about the increase of patients; they will see many heart failure and dialysis patients come in post-Thanksgiving in addition to folks who will contract the virus. Supply of ventilators can be exhausted or they may be asked to save them for people with a better chance of survival.
“I’ve taken care of patients who told me the virus was all bullshit and I was lying to them. They aren’t alive anymore.”