Published on August 4, 2021
Read Time: Three Minutes
Few people often see the inside of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Phelps Health. However, with COVID-19 cases on the rise again, fueled by the delta variant, more patients are being seen in the ICU.
On June 30, three COVID-19 patients were in the ICU. A month later, on July 30, there were 11 COVID-19 patients in the ICU.
Angela, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) at Phelps Health, is one of several employees who have been caring for ICU patients throughout the pandemic.
Like many healthcare workers, Angela continues to care for patients, while she watches some people not take COVID-19 seriously.
“I am sad,” she says. “I’ve been sad for many months because I continue to show up to fight what seems to be a losing battle.
“People aren’t listening or don’t seem to care,” she says. “[They say] ‘it's just a hoax’ and rely on Facebook and memes for their information.”
Yet in a month’s time, the two-week COVID-19 positivity rate at Phelps Health jumped from 7.9% on June 30 to 48.8% on July 30, and the average seven-day COVID-19 inpatient census increased from nine to 35 in the same timeframe.
She continues to care for patients in the ICU while many people in the community do not follow the recommended precautions -- like getting vaccinated, wearing a mask in public and avoiding large gatherings -- to stop the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
“I go to work, every day, and continue to watch people die,” Angela says. “I put them to sleep and place plastic tubes in their throats, so we can breathe for them with a ventilator.”
In some instances, Angela is the last face a patient sees. Angela says when she looks at her patients, sometimes, she sees fear, and other times, she sees regret in their eyes.
“I am a total stranger who has just enough time to get to know if the patient has any drug allergies and what their last round of blood work showed,” she says. “Not enough time to find out where the patient lives. What they are most proud of. Who they love the most.”
If the patient dies, another COVID-19 patient is usually admitted in their place.
For Angela, this new patient is often “another person [she] will sedate without knowing what they wished they could have said or done in this life. Who they may leave behind. Or, if they wished they would have taken the virus seriously and gotten vaccinated.”
Angela recalls one man she intubated (placed a tube down a person’s throat so the patient can breathe on their own) who told her, “I hope I see you again.”
“He died six hours later,” she says. “He didn’t get to say goodbye to anyone he loved, and no one got to say ‘I love you’ to him. I can still see his face and hear his voice.”
During the last surge of COVID-19 cases at Phelps Health in the winter, Angela says she held onto hope for a vaccine.
“Now, the vaccine is here, and it’s proven safe and effective,” she says. “But here we are in an even more dire surge. The delta variant spreads like wildfire and is affecting significantly younger people now. People in their 30s are dying…these hospitalizations and deaths are preventable.”
Angela encourages all people who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine to choose to be vaccinated.
“All it takes is a simple shot in the arm,” she says.
“Please take this seriously,” Angela says. “Your actions can make a difference.”
Learn more about COVID-19 vaccinations.