You can’t carry a thousand deaths around with you
Some nights we literally just held up iPads while patients were dying
Hello. How was your weekend?
Personally I spent a lot of time reflecting on this:
And also this:
Remember how proud we all were of healthcare workers there for a while? It was a whole thing. Clapping for them and shit. Big sappy TV ads thanking them. As we enter what may be another surge (?) I thought it might be worth checking in with one of the people who was “on the frontlines” over the past two years to remind ourselves how much it fucking sucks to die from Covid and what those workers went through trying to save us. Our man today is an ICU nurse in San Diego.
“When the whole unit was all Covid patients, we would have iPads at almost every bedside,” he said. “You would hear this chorus of families talking. It would be like: Uncle, I watched the Raiders last night. I was rooting for them for you. Or: Dad, don’t worry, your grandson is learning to ride a bike. All these little snippets. It’s like … fuck.”
We talked about the difficulty of building a wall inside so you don’t have to carry so many deaths around with you, public health policy and what the fuck Leana Wen’s deal is, whether or not having loved ones there when you are dying makes a difference, and some other stuff.
“We really do see very sick patients,” he said. “Some get better. But this just felt like every patient fucking died. I think you have to find a way to put it in a box. Put that box away. You have to check in with your people. It’s important to me that I have close friends I went through this with, but you gotta be able to function. If you let every death affect you the same way you would get burned out so, so quickly. It’s not like you don’t care. I care a lot.”
What kind of nurse are you and where do you work?
I’m a staff nurse in the surgical ICU. Our patient population is pretty broad. We take care of trauma patients, patients who need neurosurgical interventions, patients with cardiac surgery, and other critical needs.
There are two level one trauma centers about two blocks from each other in San Diego. We serve a large urban population. We get a lot of patients from the border. East of San Diego is very rural and there aren’t a lot of hospitals with the capacity or technology, so we get patients transferred from there too.
How bad did you get hit by Covid?
Our worst surge was the winter of 2021, after Christmas through February. During that surge we ran out of rooms to put patients, so we converted the whole unit to negative pressure. So your whole twelve hour shift, when every patient in the unit had Covid, you’d wear an N95 the entire time, a face shield. You’d spend twelve hours proning patients. It was fucking crazy.