Indiana nurse shares perspective from inside an ICU during the coronavirus pandemic

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MUNCIE, Ind. – On Friday, the state of Indiana reported more than 6,900 new positive COVID-19 cases.

As hospitalizations in the state have reached all-time highs in recent days, healthcare workers are feeling the impact and toll it is taking.

Susan Henry, a nurse in the intensive care unit (ICU) at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital shared what she has seen on the frontlines of the pandemic.

“We’ve now been dealing with this for 8 months now and the last few weeks have been insane amounts of people coming in positive,” said Henry. “There’s just a lot more positive cases and a lot of cases the acuity is higher. They’re just so sick.”

“People of all ages are getting this and they’re deteriorating quickly, and I mean within a matter of hours in some cases,” she said.

Henry said it is often scary for COVID patients who are alone, especially those who are more serious cases in need of intubation.

“A lot of times patients, before they are intubated, before all things, their families aren’t here, and they’re scared. I tell them hey, look here in my eyes. That’s the only thing they can see but I’m gonna be here with you.”

She said it is important to maintain the personal connection with her patients, even under many layers of personal protective equipment, to make sure they know they’re not alone.

“The donning and doffing is very exhausting. Going in and out of rooms multiple, multiple times a day wearing the goggles, the gloves, the masks, the N95 mask, the gowns – it can be scary to somebody who’s already here alone facing this pandemic,” Henry said.

But the pandemic is also taking a personal toll on many healthcare workers across the state.

“It’s hard. It’s very exhausting. It’s mentally exhausting. I have two older kids who are in college and two younger kids at home who are doing virtual learning so when I go home my job doesn’t stop.”

She said her family has been a great support system throughout the pandemic, especially on days where she is needed for longer hours at the hospital.

“I’ve worked a different shift, I’ve worked longer hours, they know that what I’m doing is important and right now that’s my purpose is for my patients especially with their families not able to be here,” she shared. “I’m that patient’s family now and they’ve done great in understanding that.”

Henry said she and her colleagues work together to help boost morale, even by simply thanking each other for the work they’re doing.

“I think there’s a lot of with our team just lifting each other up, being there for one another. We’re all going through the same things. We’re all burnt out, but we have to keep going,” she said. “At the end of the day we’re all in this together. If one person is having a particularly hard day, your patient is our patient.”

 “It’s very hard and seeing the things that we see and then having to go home and shut this off and then hearing on the news or hearing somebody say this isn’t real, it’s hard to process mentally. We just have to take care of ourselves.”

Henry said despite the exhaustion and impact of the pandemic, her purpose remains the same and she knows what they are doing right now is important, especially for patients facing the pandemic alone.

“It’s real. It’s out there. We see it every day. We see too much of it every day.”

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