Inside the ICU: Six Months Later

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Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 3:56 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - It has been six months since we first took you inside a coronavirus intensive care unit at Deaconess Midtown Hospital.

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

In October, ventilators lined the halls of the ICU. Nurses and doctors were clothed in layers of protective equipment.

Critical Care Pulmonologist Dr. David Ryon told us then, the ICUs were at “physical and emotional capacity.”

[PREVIOUS: Doctors and nurses share stories of working in COVID ICU]

“Yeah, it’s almost hard to imagine having been in that situation,” says Dr. Ryon. “Even though it’s only six months, it seems like a little while ago.”

This week, the hallways are clear, making room for a more normal work flow. Protective masks and shields are tucked away in sterile bins.

When we visited the ICU in October, 17 patients filled 17 rooms. 15 of them were COVID positive.

It is a much different story, however, this spring.

“One was COVID positive,” says Dr. Ryon, “but she just cleared, so it’s much better that way.”

Dr. Ryon even shared stories of good news, instead of devastation and death.

He talked about a patient who was in the ICU in the fall. Dr Ryon says he was in his 50′s, on a ventilator and fighting for his life.

“It was a couple months after that he walked back into the office off oxygen,” says Dr. Ryon. “I got to see him.”

The halls of the ICU are not completely back to normal. Staffing shortages still add an extra challenge, according to Dr. Ryon.

“We’ve lost a number of senior and more experienced staff,” says Dr. Ryon. “What’s interesting is some of the folks that were fairly brand new nurses during the midst of the wartime feeling then are some of the nurse leaders now.”

Dr. Ryon says one of the biggest challenges now is caring for very sick people who have put off health care during the pandemic.

He says most illness could have been treated earlier. Dr. Ryon encourages everyone to resume regular check-ups and screenings to help both ourselves and the hospitals.

Dr. Ryon has been in the trenches from the start. After more than two years into the pandemic, he says he is finally able to take a breath.

“I’m doing better, I think, mostly because there is a chance to breathe,” says Dr. Ryon.

He added, “I’d love to see COVID not come back to our hospital, and not to be another pandemic for a long time.”

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