Inside the ICU: one month later

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 6:16 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - One month after visiting a Coronavirus ICU at Deaconess Midtown Hospital, nurses and doctors say there has been some improvement.

In September, 17 patients filled 17 beds in one unit, and 15 of them were positive for the coronavirus.

[PREVIOUS: The Frontlines of COVID: Inside the ICU]

How are doctors and nurses holding up four weeks later?

“I have a little more hope,” says Sarah McQuay, an ICU nurse working in the COVID-19 unit.

McQuay says she has more hope, because the number of sick patients is declining, which slightly lessens the demand on staff and supplies.

“I feel like the acuity is going down a little bit,” says McQuay. “We still have our very sick patients, but not all of them are that sick. So that is what is giving me a little bit of hope. Keeps me going.”

The same goes for Critical Care Pulmonologist Dr. David Ryon. He has worked on the COVID-19 units from the start.

“It is a relief, frankly, to see these numbers coming down,” says Dr. Ryon. “To see the expectation that we are on the other side of this wave. To know that we are going to have enough resources to get through it. To have a reasonable expectation that we ought to be okay for the holidays.”

One challenge that has not changed, however, is the number of staff suited up to battle the virus.

“We are in the midst of a staffing crisis,” says Dr. Ryon. “Maintaining staff, bringing staff in, and being able to handle this high census is an ongoing challenge.”

“It is hard to not only do the work,” says McQuay. “It is hard to be that patient’s family, their voice, their advocate, and be that middle man between the family, the doctors and the patient.”

Nurses and doctors agree - upping the number of immunized individuals is helping to lower the number of hospitalizations.

“I know it is scary,” says McQuay. “I know it is new, but we know what happens when you are not.”

That’s why McQuay says perhaps the best improvement over the last month has been outside the ICU, like the moment she got her booster shot.

“While I was in the waiting room, someone had overheard that I was a Deaconess employee and mentioned the interview to me,” says McQuay. “It was a mom and her son, and it was his birthday. She was overjoyed to actually see me in person, because she said I was the reason they were there. It made her ask questions and do research. As a result, her and her son and now vaccinated, and that was my goal. So I encouraged them to go tell two more people and have those people tell two more. As a community, we are going to get back to normal.”

Dr. Ryon says he encourages people to look at the “big picture” when considering getting vaccinated.

He said reactions to the vaccine can occur, but the overwhelming data suggests the vaccines are safe and effective in slowing the spread of the virus.

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