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Tucson ICU nurse: COVID-19 is real & people are dying

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Tucson ICU nurse: COVID-19 is real & people are dying

I have been a registered nurse for about 10 years and I have spent around 55 of my last 100 hours physically working on a COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit and have some observations:

This second wave in Arizona has hit far worse then the first. We have been balancing around full capacity at all times over the past weeks.

COVID-19 is real, despite an insane number of people on social media believing the hoax or that it's just the flu and people shouldn't worry.

I have never looked around my 100-percent full ICU and genuinely thought that there is the possibility of NO survivors.

When you get legitimately sick and require intubation (breathing machine), there is a very slim chance of survival.

Related commentary: Dear Gov. Ducey: Here's what it's like to watch a loved one die on a ventilator

This virus hits quickly. Patients have been going from barely needing to be hospitalized for shortness of breath and not requiring oxygen, to intubation and maxed-out ventilator settings within hours.

Nearly all of these patients are requiring not only pain medication and sedation, but also medication for us to completely paralyze them so we can control every aspect of their breathing. Even with all these measures and high ventilator settings, the blood gases have been some of the worst I have ever seen.

Just because our governor has opened up our state and is not requiring masks and social distancing doesn't mean the pandemic is over. Like I said previously, this wave is WORSE than before and will keep getting worse if we let it.

Hospitals are nearing the phase where ICU nurses are going to have to increase ratios and take care of more patients then we typically do, just to manage the influx of extremely sick patients — who once intubated are usually hospitalized for around a month or so before passing away.

Hospitals are at the point where we can't accept all patients and are making decisions based on if patients have the chance of survival.

Hospitals are at the point where we can't accept all patients and are making decisions based on if patients have the chance of survival. We are also not able to provide all treatment modalities such as dialysis on all patients based on the futility of their situations.

This is real. Take it seriously and think about your actions before you go out shopping/to restaurants/parties, etc., before you are the one who unknowingly transmits this virus to your mom/dad/grandma/grandpa/brother/sister. The majority of our patients aren't over the age of 65. We have had patients in their 40s. Pregnant patients. Family members dying side by side. These patients aren't old and don't have extremely long lists of comorbid conditions. Rant over. Be safe.

Ben Gerkin is an intensive care nurse at a Tucson hospital.

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