Since the beginning of the pandemic, doctors and nurses at Mountain West Medical Center have been caring for COVID-19 patients tirelessly.
Tiffany Connell, an RN, who works in the Intensive Care Unit at Mountain West Medical Center cares for severely sick patients during her shifts.
“In the ICU we take care of some of the sicker patients affected with COVID,” she said. “All of these patients require a close eye as their conditions can change pretty quickly.”
Many patients who have contracted COVID-19 are in the ICU for more serious issues that may accompany the virus.
“Patients with COVID also require large amounts of oxygen, frequent breathing treatments, and multiple other medications to help them feel comfortable in the slightest way possible,” Connell said. “It’s never easy, I’m sure, to struggle to breathe.”
Along with providing COVID-19 patients with constant care and medications, Connell has another responsibility.
“It’s also making sure to update the family with any information as they are unable to see their loved ones for an unforeseen amount of time,” she said.
Connell admitted that taking care of patients who have been infected is hard and scary.
“I remember recently writing a paper about a pandemic in my bachelor’s program,” she said. “I remember thinking how terrifying it would be if I were in their place to see something of that magnitude. Never in my career did I think I would face a pandemic. It’s been hard to fathom how quickly, how seriously, and the length of time that this virus is affecting people.”
The pandemic hit quickly and Connell was surprised by many things during taking care of patients.
“We see people that come in and are minimally affected and then go home in a few days with no further problems,” she said. “Yes, we see a lot of elderly who are affected seriously by the virus, but I have been shocked by the amount of younger patients we have taken care of that are quite sick. A simple task such as rolling over in bed or even taking a drink of water is a challenge like no other for these patients and that continues for days and weeks sometimes.”
Connell said sometimes the ICU staff doesn’t know if patients will get better.
“You see the same patients day after day sometimes with no improvement but getting worse,” she said. “They just ride that boat for a while. As a nurse you want to see them get better and to see them struggle for so long has kind of made me tired. I used to think that putting someone on 40L and 100% fio2 (fraction of inspired oxygen) was a big deal. Now, it’s just another day at work. I’m not trying to say it’s not a big deal, but it’s happening so often lately that it’s becoming less of a shock to me to see this.”
The ICU at Mountain West Medical Center always has a COVID-19 patient now, she said.
“Our ICU has been consistently full,” said Connell. “Not always full of COVID patients but there is always a COVID patient, or two, or three, or four sometimes. Our ICU is only four beds. So, when we’re full with COVID or not, patients have to go somewhere else away from where they could be close to family and support. Sometimes that poses it’s own challenges too. Sometimes we’re unable to find a place for them to go for hours, even days.”
Dr. Devin Horton, chief hospitalist at Mountain West Medical Center expressed the downfalls of dealing with COVID-19 patients.
“It’s sad,” he said. “I have seen a lot of suffering and death. Sad, because families often can’t be with their loved ones. Frustrating, because there is so little we can do. Once the downhill trend starts, it is like trying to hold back a train and the patients take so long to get better. It’s also time consuming, because of all of the protective equipment that needs to be taken on and off.”
Horton oversees all patient care at Mountain West Medical Center. He said that those infected with COVID-19 have taken up a large majority of the hospital.
“When I started my week-long shift last week, I think half or more of all my patients were COVID with nearly all of those in the ICU being COVID,” Horton said. “The ICU has been very full over the last couple of weeks with COVID patients.”
Horton said if 90% of the population will choose to receive the vaccine, there may be an end of the pandemic in sight.
However, until health officials are able to administer the vaccine to all who choose to receive it, individuals should follow medical expert’s advice.
“Please follow the advice of medical experts in order to protect yourself, your loved ones, and those who you may never know,” Horton said.
Individuals can very easily spread the virus to individuals around them without even knowing, according to Horton.
“Because of the way this virus acts, one can be contagious for days without symptoms,” he said. “You may infect people you don’t know, and then they can infect people they don’t know, until finally someone becomes very sick and dies. The person that can be harmed by us not wearing a mask, keeping our distance, washing our hands, getting the vaccine, may be several degrees removed and we may never know the harm and suffering we have caused. With that being said, I have also personally known people/patients who have been unwittingly infected by their children or loved ones and this has resulted in hospitalization and sometimes death.”