Home Health care provider “We are fighting this battle, and it keeps coming and going”

“We are fighting this battle, and it keeps coming and going”

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“The first year was tough,” Ali said. “After January, when we got the vaccine, it was more depression because a lot of people that we lost, we felt like it was a preventable loss.”

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After treating coronavirus patients for 20 months, hospital staff see no end in sight as they face a younger patient population and growing abuse from those who embrace disinformation and see them as the enemy. This is in addition to the stressful conditions they endured throughout the pandemic, such as wearing personal protective equipment for long hours, fear of bringing the virus home, lower staff levels than optimal and extra shifts to cope with the large influx of high people. need patients.

Exhausted, exhausted healthcare workers

As of Friday, 269 hospital patients in the region had COVID-19. At the height of the current outbreak, just over 400 hospital patients in the region had COVID-19. Even as this fourth wave eases somewhat, workers who treat coronavirus patients are still overwhelmed and fearful of further waves.

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Vicki Laywell is a registered respiratory therapist at Kettering Health where she has treated COVID-19 patients throughout the pandemic. She said she recently treated a patient in his twenties who had to be transferred to another hospital to be put on life support. “Seeing someone in their twenties and they’ve got their whole life ahead of them, and hugging the mother and knowing that she can see her son alive again and she can’t, it’s just very exhausting to us, ”she said. Photo submitted.

Vicki Laywell, a respiratory therapist at Kettering Medical Center, said she felt like she was in a war zone.

“We are leading this battle and it keeps coming and going,” Laywell said. “I have a feeling that if the public could go through a COVID intensive care unit and see what these people are dealing with, it would change their perspective on wearing masks, vaccination, hand washing, limiting your inner circle of family and friends. You want to be around next year and if you get this COVID … there are so many that don’t survive, and when they do survive they sometimes go through life-long changes in their physical health. “

Patricia O’Malley, a nurse researcher at Premier Health, said the coronavirus had transformed hospitals into field hospital-like environments.

“We know that continued exposure to all of this high acuity over that period of time results in mental distress, mental distress, anxiety, exhaustion and sadness,” O’Malley said. “And the idea that much of what we see now with our unvaccinated population is unnecessary is particularly difficult.”

A national survey of more than 5,000 registered nurses released last month by National Nurses United, found that about 42% of nurses feel sad or depressed more often than before the pandemic, and more than a third do. traumatized by their experiences of patient care.

“Too much chores, too little time to take care of yourself, too much stress,” said Bernadette Melnyk, dean of the Ohio State University College of Nursing. “And all of this affects our nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers, and it compromises the quality and safety of care. “

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Sable Morgan, a nursing team leader in the intensive care unit at Miami Valley Hospital, was feeling so exhausted that she went from full-time to part-time in February.

“Dealing with the death toll that we are seeing is really wreaking havoc on you,” Morgan said. “It’s moving because no matter how hard we fight, it’s just kind of a never-ending fight. It’s exhausting. It’s not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel that makes it more difficult… And that was sort of, I have to withdraw a bit or I don’t know if I can continue breastfeeding.

Sable Morgan, a nurse in the intensive care unit at Miami Valley Hospital, said:
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Sable Morgan, a nurse in the intensive care unit at Miami Valley Hospital, said: “It’s touching because no matter how hard we fight, it’s just kind of a never-ending fight. C It’s exhausting. tunnel, I think, that’s what makes it the most difficult. ” Photo submitted.

Credit: William J Jones

Credit: William J Jones

Misinformation and abuse

“We get a lot of hate, we get a lot of bullying, we have a lot of people yelling at us, and it’s all political,” said Kelly Schlotterbeck, respiratory therapist working at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati and Miami Valley South.

Schlotterbeck and other health workers in the region said the number of patients seeking dangerous and untested treatments they were seeing online had spiraled out of control.

“Someone asked if we can nebulize hydrogen peroxide because apparently there’s a TikTok video where someone says nebulizing hydrogen peroxide will help COVID,” she said. “It would be incredibly dangerous, he’s a free radical. It is totally not recommended. And these are the things people ask for. I’ve had people say to us, ‘You’re not doing enough to help me.’ “

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She said another patient treated by a colleague refused a much needed blood transfusion by staff, unless staff could prove the blood was from a donor who was not vaccinated against COVID- 19.

“What worries me is the mistrust of the public,” said Schlotterbeck. “An opinion is not the opinion of an expert. And I feel like the public thinks more that because they read it, they can demand what’s going on in their care no matter how ridiculous it is, and I’m really worried that when it will stop.

Nurses and other healthcare workers were revered as heroes when the pandemic began, Morgan said, but now they are being treated as enemies for promoting vaccination.

The National Nurses United survey found that 31% of hospital nurses had experienced violence at work, up from 22% in their March survey.

People’s fears about vaccines and the virus are valid, O’Malley said, but misinformation – particularly the belief that natural immunity is sufficient or that an untested substance will treat the coronavirus – is a threat to the public health.

Patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and their families are understandably desperate for anything that gives them hope, Laywell said.

“And it’s so sad, because the vaccine is the hope they should have turned to before,” Laywell said, fighting back tears. “It’s just become such a political situation, and that’s when you’re up there you see people gasping for air and trying to decide, ‘Should I use a fan because I probably won’t wake up? “There is nothing political about this.”

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Karen Davis is a nurse in the intensive care unit at Dayton Children's Hospital.  MARSHALL GORBY  STAFF
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Karen Davis is a nurse in the intensive care unit at Dayton Children’s Hospital. MARSHALL GORBY STAFF

Patients leave forever changed

Hospital workers across the region warn that even patients who survive hospitalization with COVID-19 are forever changed by the experience. The reality depresses the staff even more, as many cases of rescued patients are not seen as a victory.

“People constantly talk about the 99% survival rate,” Schlotterbeck said. “I really want the public to realize that even people who go on oxygen, or await a lung transplant or go on dialysis with chronic kidney disease afterwards, they are included in that 99%. But their lives are going to be so impacted.

Never able to work again. Stay on fans the rest of their lives. Never walk again.

“I wish the public knew more,” said Schlotterbeck. “I had a patient last night who has been there for about four months. He’s COVID resolved but he’s still on a ventilator, and we’re having a hard time getting him down. “

Chronic symptoms like brain fog, shortness of breath, loss of taste and smell can last a long time after contracting COVID-19, Ali said.

“I still see a good number of these patients in my lung clinic with scar tissue in their lungs,” he said.

A June study found that 45% of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 still suffered from health issues related to their discharge.

Karen Davis, a nurse in the intensive care unit at Dayton Children’s Hospital, said being hospitalized with COVID-19 is a life-changing experience for children.

“The patients I took care of, the youngest was 9 years old and the oldest was 17. They all had difficulty breathing,” she said. “The one that impressed me the most was a young man of 17 and I took care of him early in his illness process. And it was just hard to watch him… he got very anxious because he couldn’t breathe, and I try to say to him ‘Try to slow down your breathing.’ All the while I knew he couldn’t breathe. It’s just hard to watch them struggle… They realize their own mortality, and it’s a bit young to be aware of it.


Have questions about COVID-19, face masks, vaccines, testing, quarantine, or anything else related to the pandemic? Send them to jordan.laird@coxinc.com. Responses will be published regularly in print and online.