June 19th, 2020

A peek inside the ICU (4/3/20)

Everyday people ask "Is it better at the hospital?". This is question that is difficult to answer. Yes, admissions are down, yes the chaos has lulled but no it's not better. What is "better" anyway?

Entering the ICUs on a daily basis you are immersed in what COVID has created. Patients are "better" in a sense that they are more stable and will most likely be discharged instead of deceased, but again they aren't "better".

They lay there in their beds, unable to speak, move or breathe on their own. Tubes that were down their throats are now trach site. They are still attached to breathing machines, still very much dependent on their nurses care. As they lie there, the world is happening around them.

Staff members scurry in and out of the patients room, masked and protected. The patient laying there, alive but not living. They manage their alarms and their pain. Nurses still overwhelmed with the patient volume and the acuity of each of their patients.

When I enter the room, I always introduce myself and the patient is there staring. No response. I approach the patient and I look at them and begin to talk. Their eyes wide open, blank stares. Arms and legs limp, motionless. Even though the stares are blank, I can see the fear in their eyes. Scared but unsure why. Alone.

I ask them some questions and see if I get a response. Sometimes a head nod, a lot of times nothing. With a hundred tasks to complete on my mind, I push them aside. I think of my own family and friends, if they were alone in the hospital and afraid. I stay with the patients a few minutes and talk to them and hold their hand. I see the photos of them with their families on the wall and I imagine them as people not patients. I imagine what their life was before this battle. I try to reassure and comfort them for that short time, but I truly don't know what their outcome will be.

My biggest fear for these patients is that they are oriented but unable to communicate. That they are aware of their condition but cannot process the emotions or make sense of it. That they are trapped inside themselves, alone. So, each day I try to make them feel human. Mindlessly chatting at them, making small talk, calling their name, letting them know we are here for them, hoping for a response.

Tags: coping

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Comments (1)

Comments (1)

Hi Lisa:

Thank you for your humanity. If it was my family member, that's what I would want for them.

As you reflect on your experience, what do you think we should learn from all that has happened? What do you want policy makers, political leaders, and health care administrators to know? What needs to change so this never happens again?

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