WARNING: This post will be graphic. Read at your own risk.
I recently completed a crisis contract as a covid nurse in southern California. The city of Los Angeles has steadily been reporting 7,000 COVID cases a day. Of course, most of these cases are mild, and people will walk away unharmed… However, with that amount of reported cases, statistically comes a surge in patients sick enough to be hospitalized. The state hires many nurses in the area anticipating this surge because, without this extra help, there are just not enough hands to take care of all of these sick people.
I get assigned to a hospital two hours east of Los Angeles, in a city called Indio. It is a tiny 142 county hospital halfway filled with COVID patients, Products of the Christmas and New Years’ surge. I am immediately assigned to the all COVID unit. Many hospitals are having to create wards to hold these sick patients and keep them isolated from the ones who do not have COVID. Sometimes it is just not feasible due to the amount of COVID patients coming in at once.
A day in the life of a COVID Nurse
I take a deep breath and put on my N95 mask
There are about 30 COVID patients on this unit. I take a deep breath and put on my N95 mask. It is going to be a long 12 hours. I put a surgical mask over it. I place my face shield and gown on and prepare to see my first patient.
The first man is in his 70s.
He is on a non-rebreather mask at 15L and satting 91%. Normal is between 92 and 100%. He seems to be stable at the moment.
My other lady is in her 80s.
Her husband died of COVID two days prior. She requires minimal oxygen. She aspirates on her own vomit by the end of my shift and dies shortly after.
The other woman is Spanish and in her 60s.
Requiring the highest support of BIPAP you can have. This is the mask you wear right before you get intubated. We like to try everything we can to keep you from getting intubated because once you do, 95% of the time, you are not getting extubated.
My final patient is in her early 60s
She is wearing a high-flow nasal cannula receiving almost maximum fiO2 WITH a 15L non-rebreather on top. She is so hypoxic and confused she keeps ripping her masks off because she doesn’t know any better. Within minutes after she does, she turns dusky grey, as I frantically put my PPE on as quick as possible run in there to put it back on, while her one coherent thought is asking me if she is going to be OK. I keep begging the doctor for a BIPAP mask or intubation, but he is refusing. We both know where this will end if we do that.
As I care for my own patients, other patients around the unit are dropping like flies requiring more oxygen that we can’t give them. They go into cardiac arrest, stroke out, or throw pulmonary embolisms.
This is a nasty, ugly, disgusting disease.
All the while, family members are frantically calling, checking on their loved ones. They didn’t expect to lose them so drastically. Sure many of them are morbidly obese. Sure many of them have co-morbidities. But they sure as hell would not have been in this situation if it weren’t for COVID. All the while, all healthcare workers fear for our lives and health as we combat this invisible enemy, stuck in a role that we technically never signed up for.
I have never been more tired. Or Burnt out. I have never wanted to sleep so much. You pour your heart and soul into getting these people to breathe when all they do is die. I spend hours in these rooms, hanging antibiotics, administering antivirals, steroids, anticoagulants. Nothing helps. It is the same story every time. Once they cross a threshold, they will die.
End of story.
I do not feel like a hero. I would never want that title. None of us do. We want this to be over. We want this senseless suffering to stop.
If there’s one point of me sharing this gruesome experience, it is this. Please get vaccinated. Tell your loved ones to get vaccinated. We might not die, but we may experience long term health effects. We might not die, but we could potentially pass this virus along to someone who will. The sooner we get vaccinated, the sooner this nightmare will be over.
If you haven’t experienced the wrath of COVID firsthand, you are lucky. It is one of the worst things, if not the worst, and we will ever experience in our lifetimes.
My heart goes out to all of COVIDs victims and their families.
Do you have COVID Nurse experience?
Are you a travel nurse who has taken an assignment as a COVID nurse? Would you like to share that COVID nurse experience? Comment below or send an email to us here.