We are intensive care unit nurses at Valleywise Health Medical Center in Phoenix, and, like everyone else, we want our lives to get back to normal.
Quite honestly, we’re all tired. The last year in our COVID-19 ICUs has been a nightmare that we never want to relive. We have been shattered by watching so much death and grief.
That’s why we’re asking for your help. Even though the state has transitioned COVD-19 requirements to recommendations, we still have a long way to go. Proven public health mitigation measures like wearing masks and social distancing continue to be crucial until Arizona reaches herd immunity.
The last thing we want is another surge
Health care professionals want people to have a life. We want businesses to thrive. We want people struggling with isolation and depression to find hope.
We don’t blame anyone for wanting to drop the mask and party like it’s 2019.
By getting the vaccine and continuing to wear face coverings and take other precautions, we will get there. This is how we have to do it.
The cost of complacency — of allowing another surge — is unthinkable.
People ask us what it’s like working in a COVID-19 unit. There are really no words to describe it. Imagine wearing scuba gear for 12 hours while trying to fight a brush fire with a garden hose. Just when you think you’ve got it under control, more fires break out.
We've seen and grieved too much
Many of the patients who landed in our COVID-19 units did not make it, no matter how many medical interventions we performed or how many times we “proned” or turned them to ease their breathing.
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It didn’t matter how hard we worked or how much time we stayed at their bedside because we still don’t know everything about how COVID-19 attacks the human body.
Most of these patients died surrounded not by family, but by nurses and doctors in full personal protective equipment. This is the scene repeated too many times: A nurse held the patient’s hand while the family said goodbye to their loved one over an iPad.
Like ICU nurses across the country, we have been there too many times. That experience, that level of grief, is soul crushing.
Get the vaccine, wear a mask
At Valleywise Health, every dedicated staff member responded to the crisis. Our remarkable respiratory therapists worked tirelessly to take care of the patients with us.
Physical and occupational therapists became part of our “proning teams” to turn patients on their backs and stomachs. Certified nursing assistants provided critical support to keep ICU nurses from being overwhelmed. Burn and trauma surgeons, along with their residents, pitched in to cover the COVID-19 units.
We were heartened by the remarkable support of the community providing donated meals and cards, drawings and letters.
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Now that we can see a light at the end of the tunnel, we’re asking for your support one more time. Please get the vaccine and keep taking precautions like wearing a mask in public.
Only then will we get back to a new normal.
Regina Villa, BSN, RN, was one of the first Arizona health care workers to receive the vaccine. Jennifer Granger, BSN, RN, was among the frontline health care workers honored as The Arizona Republic editorial board’s Arizonans of the Year. This column originally appeared in the Arizona Republic.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Get vaccinated: COVID-19 has exhausted ICU nurses. We need your help.