A California ER nurse told her family that if she gets COVID-19 she doesn't want a ventilator and to give it to someone else who needs it more

salarshani@businessinsider.com (Sarah Al-Arshani)
ventilator surgery

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  • An emergency room nurse told Insider she wouldn't take a ventilator if she were to be infected with coronavirus and to save it for others who may need it more. 

  • Paige volunteered to work on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak. 

  • She's prepared her family in case something were to happen to her on the front line. 

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

An emergency room nurse working in Southern California told Insider, the pandemic had forced her to have some difficult conversations with her family. 

Paige, who asked to conceal her last name said while she's found it too difficult to have the conversation with her 86-year-old father, she's discussed how she wants her family to deal with her death if she were to be infected and die from the coronavirus with her sisters. 

"If I were to get really sick, my sisters know I don't want to take a ventilator from someone else who may need it," she said. 

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Business Insider previously reported the US does not have enough ventilators to handle the influx of coronavirus patients. 

Paige explained that she had conversations with other nurses in hard-hit states who described discussions on who would get a ventilator and who wouldn't if their hospitals become overburdened.

One of the symptoms of coronavirus is shortness of breath. Ventilators are used in intensive care to assist patients who are having trouble breathing or can't breathe on their own. 

A shortage of these supplies in Italy, which has also experienced a massive outbreak, has also forced hospitals to prioritize who they could save. In places like the Lombardy region, doctors have to make tough decisions to protect the young and healthy at the expense of older patients.  

The nurse worries that her exposure to COVID-19 patients without proper protective equipment could put her at risk of catching the virus and spreading it. 

She said she's been reusing the same N95 mask for at least five shifts. It is meant only to be used once for a single patient encounter. She's concerned that she could be infected every time she puts the mask back on. 

Paige explained that while her hospital has been trying to procure more personal protective equipment for staff, the national shortage is making it difficult. For now, they gave her a gift bag to carry the gear she'll have to reuse. 

"It's not a gift. It feels like a joke. It feels like a cruel joke," she said of having to carry around the gift bag. 

For now, Paige is isolating herself from her family. Despite the shelter-in-place orders, she won't visit her father for his 86th birthday, fearing she could put him at risk. 

"I can't be the reason my dad dies," she said, explaining that she had a tough conversation with him, so he knows how to protect himself. 

Insider