GRIEF, HORROR AND DEATH
Nurse gives heartbreaking account of her experience with COVID-19 patients and their relativesWednesday, September 08, 2021
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Suicidal patients, enraged relatives and the anguished shrieks of grief-stricken parents whose children have died is the legacy of the over 18-month-long fight against COVID-19 in the island's public hospitals that one nurse says she, and hundreds of her colleagues, will find hard to forget when it ends.
A vicious third surge in novel coronavirus infections has had public hospitals reeling; allotting additional beds to COVID-19 patients based on overflowing intensive care units (ICUs) and a rising death toll. All this has been exacerbated by critically low medical oxygen supplies and at least one sick-out by overworked nurses.
On Monday night, one nurse shared a gripping and heartbreaking account of her experience on local virtual talk show Heart to Heart.
“Because so many persons are being infected, and it's on a critical level, you have regular wards as well as the ICU being flooded with patients. The regular [COVID-19] wards are monitored by cameras. Nurses are few and have other duties to perform. We are overworked and tired, but we still push through… and when you have overworked nurses doing [additional] shifts at times things are missed. For example, you would see a patient breathing now and you go and tend to something else and by time you come back, 15-20 minutes after, the person is unresponsive, not breathing. You touch the person; they are cold to the touch, there is nothing you can do and you know we have lost that person,” she related.
“Other than that, you have regular patients in need of heart, brain and other surgeries that we are unable to perform because there is no ICU space, so we have those persons on oxygen waiting to see if there will be an available space. But then we also have persons on the regular COVID ward who are also waiting on a ventilator because they are also critical, so we are losing people rapidly due to no ICU space,” the nurse added.
She said the harrowing experiences have taken a mental toll on all involved.
“I have seen where COVID-infected persons [have been affected mentally]. We have a patient on the ward who tried to commit suicide three times but was unsuccessful. We also had another patient who said that he can't bother with it and can't' deal with it and he would kill himself, and we had to seek psychiatric aid for him, and he said he was not actually suicidal but the fact that he is there alone, feeling depressed and lonely, he just expressed it that way,” she shared.
Grieving family members, enraged by sorrow, turning on medical staff is not a rarity, she said.
“I got attacked by [an individual] who said I was wicked [and that] I gave her [relative] COVID because when her [relative] came [to the hospital] she did not have COVID and we killed her. We have to be dealing with these persons, so even as a worker your mental health is also important,” the nurse pointed out.
The deaths, she said, have not left medical staff unmoved.
“I remember I was talking to a patient in his 30s, and when I came to work the next day he had died, and I was like, 'But I just spoke to him yesterday',” the nurse said.
“Or you come to work today and four people die right in front of you. It affects us mentally and emotionally. One thing that sometimes I cry when I remember is when a daughter or a son loses a mother and they cry it's not so bad, but you see when a mother loses a child, I tell you, the cries and the screams, and the pain, it's not normal,” she stated, her voice heavy with feeling.
“Sometimes I have to go aside and cry, because you can see the pain, you can see the hurt, and it echoes past your ears and enters your soul. For me, that is what happens. Those cries are the hardest for me to digest,” she said further.
The nurse said, while alarm is being raised over the tenuous situation relating to oxygen supplies, there is another crisis on the horizon.
“They say we are low on oxygen, I am telling you, we are running out of medication too. What we have to be doing is writing prescriptions and giving it to the family to fill because there is this great demand for these products and it's putting a strain on the hospital resources, so we have to be asking family members to source medication outside,” the nurse said.
In the meantime, she had this appeal to Jamaicans:
“I am not telling anyone not to take or to take the vaccines; vaccines or no vaccines I am just telling everyone to take the necessary precautions to keep you and your family safe, because with all the craziness and everything that is happening, now is not the time to catch it to a point where you even need oxygen.”
On Monday health officials recorded 837 new cases of the virus, bringing the total cases in the island to 72,824 since last year March when the first case was reported. There were nine additional deaths recorded, bringing the total fatalities to 1,646. A total of 755 individuals are hospitalised.
On Saturday, Jamaica recorded 687 new COVID-19 cases and 26 deaths.
As of Sunday, there were 643 new confirmed cases and 18 deaths and a total 699 people hospitalised.
A total of 48,921 patients have recovered from the virus.