Frustrated. Dumbfounded. Exhausted.
Those are some of the words two Bryan Health nurses used to describe caring for the current surge of COVID-19 patients.
Bryan Health reported 61 total COVID-19 patients on Tuesday, about 20% of whom have been vaccinated against the disease.
That's a higher percentage than in recent weeks, but the health system said all seriously ill patients, including those in the intensive care unit and on ventilators, are unvaccinated.
Taylor Kadavy, an ICU nurse at Bryan, said friends and family members are always asking her about what comorbidities patients have, assuming they are only hospitalized for COVID-19 because they have other health issues.
But Kadavy said these days hospitalizations have less to do with age and health problems and more to do with not being vaccinated.
"I think that's the biggest comorbidity," she said.
Katherine Wolverton, who works in one of Bryan's progressive care units, said she's shocked by the number of patients who didn't think COVID-19 was real and can't believe they got it.
"Some patients don't actually believe they have COVID, even when they're on the precipice of needing to be intubated," she said.
Wolverton said that when the vaccine arrived in December for health care providers and then was rolled out to the wider community, she thought it meant that "we would be done with our surge," which held true for a few months.
But now patients are flooding back in, many of them younger and sicker than last time.
"It has been frustrating and hard to see all the COVID patients coming back in," Wolverton said.
She said it's harder to deal with this second surge because of the opinions of many unvaccinated people.
"That makes you kind of feel like giving up or like (saying) 'what's the point,' because these people don't believe that COVID's here," Wolverton said.
"I guess I cannot believe that there's as much disbelief as there is in COVID."
Both nurses said they and their colleagues had their spirits lifted when the wave of patients started to subside last winter and then almost disappear in early summer, and they find it very discouraging to be back where they were.
Kadavy has been caring for COVID-19 patients almost since the beginning of her nursing career, which started in January 2020. She said the mental toll is different this time around, largely due to the fact that she sees so many people in the hospital who wouldn't be there if they'd gotten vaccinated.
"I'm 25 years old, for reference, and I've been taking care of patients that are in my age (group)," she said.
Wolverton said she's taken care of a number of people in their 20s and 30s, many of whom "didn't have anything else wrong with them" other than having COVID-19.
Russ Gronewold, Bryan Health CEO, said Tuesday that the hospital had 11 COVID-19 inpatients under the age of 40, "and some of them aren't in the best shape."
Wolverton said it's very emotional caring for patients who she knows are probably going to die, especially knowing many of those deaths could have been prevented if more people had gotten vaccinated and followed other guidance such as wearing masks and staying out of crowded places.
"It's just been frustrating, and it's hard not being angry sometimes at the community," she said.
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