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Your Healthy Family: Memorial ICU nurse shares current struggles of COVID-19 care

Posted at 4:36 PM, Nov 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-25 18:36:45-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — During the holidays, Your Healthy Family stories are usually full of advice about things to do, or not to do. Don’t overeat, don’t go overboard on sweets, make sure to exercise and get a good eight hours of sleep every night. It’s all good advice from health experts but for most of us, it’s almost always easier said than done.

This story isn’t meant to tell you so much of what to do, but more to inform you of what's happening in our community hospitals and how your choices could impact them in the future.

On Tuesday I was able to chat on Zoom with Lisa Simmons, a registered nurse at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs. Lisa has worked on the Intensive Care Unit for the last 10 years, and I asked her how long she has been caring for COVID-19 patients. Lisa says, “Since this started back in March. COVID hasn’t gone away for us here at the hospital.”

Lisa says in the beginning there was a real focus to figure out what they were dealing with and how to best care for COVID patients, and while the commitment to patient care remains high, “We are tired. Our numbers have skyrocketed and for us it almost feels disheartening because we're doing everything we possibly can to care for these patients, and more and more keep coming in. We are emotionally worn down and it's been tough.”

Over the last 9 months, Lisa has seen COVID hit a wide range of patients hard. “Obviously, those who are at highest risk are the ones with pre-existing conditions such as COPD, asthma and heart disease. We are seeing patients who are young - in their 20s or 30s with no pre-existing conditions healthy who had just worked out several days earlier with no symptoms coming in and dying from COVID.”

Lisa also says there is a worry that the number of COVID patients needing care in the hospital is only going to rise in the coming weeks if people don’t follow recommendations that have been given by national, state and local health experts.

Lisa hopes everyone will really think about the possible consequences of their choices on Thanksgiving. “I recommend - do not go to Thanksgiving with your family. I've canceled my family Thanksgiving plans. My mom is high-risk, and I would not be able to live with myself if I was a carrier and didn't know it and gave her COVID. It would absolutely kill her. Please wear your mask, please social distance, please try to stay within your household for Thanksgiving this year. Don't go see extended family - especially if they are elderly or you don't see them often, because we (hospitals) are feeling the brunt of it.”

You may think your actions alone to wear a mask and socially distance or skip a family gathering with those outside of your household, won't make a difference but Lisa says, “It will absolutely make a difference for us, yes.”

There are also those who may think the COVID-19 isn’t as real or isn’t much different from the flu. From her experience, Lisa says, “COVID is very real for anyone questioning that. You may think that it won't happen to your family, but we actually have families who have multiple family members here (in the ICU) with us. We have had husbands and wives on ventilators in rooms right next to each other. It is so isolating to be a COVID patient in the hospital right now. We only allow one visitor to come in and look through a glass door, for the rooms that have a glass door in the ICU. You can only look at your loved one, but patients who are positive for COVID can't have visitors in the room. We (nurses) are the only ones able to provide human contact with them. If you don’t think it's going to happen to your loved one, then just think what it would feel like to be in that bed, not having anyone who can come visit you. Struggling to breathe being maxed out on the amount of oxygen we can give you, and you not knowing if this is the end for you.”

Not everyone who gets infected with COVID is going to end up in the hospital, or the ICU, in fact most people won’t - but the problem is nobody really knows how hard COVID will hit them until they have it. Colorado Governor Jard Polis said on Tuesday, November 24th that 1 in every 41 people in Colorado are infected with COVID-19.

If you would like to send a message, or picture of encouragement
to UCHealth Memorial staff, you can do so by clicking HERE [uchealth.org]

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