Laura Debroeck slowly approaches her husband, hoping that today will be the day she wakes him up since it’s been almost a month and despite the maze of wires and tubes ringing his hospital bed, she wants him to feel safe and loved. “I love you so much,” Debbie whispers to her husband.
As Debroeck herself was hospitalized earlier this month with COVID-19, nurses rushed over to assure her it wasn’t her husband, every time she heard gears whirring or someone gasping for air. I wanted him to look at us and see we were succeeding, Debroeck stated. Even if things fall apart.
Louisiana Hospital Suffers Another Virus Surge
Patients from across Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas have gathered at a Shreveport hospital for a bedside vigil. The staff members reported crying on route to work, numbing themselves to the sound of packing body bags, and taking dead patients to the morgue. There are 138 coronavirus patients at Willis-Knighton Medical Center, including the Debroecks, of whom about 120 are unvaccinated.
COVID-19 vaccine was not in Michael’s favor. It was simply too much work for Lauren. She said she scheduled the appointment three times but canceled them due to being too busy. Almost all of the ICU hallways were clear a month ago, says Beth Springer, nursing coordinator. It appears that now the pandemic will be even worse.
The sadness is palpable. In nearly 20 years as a nurse, Springer has seen a lot she never imagined she would see. Every time a patient at Willis-Knighton died of the virus, the nursing staff would hang a paper angel on the wall. After months of rising death tolls from one outbreak after another, doctors and providers became accustomed to seeing the images of a brutal scene day after day.
In her account of how they replaced the angels with colorful paper streamers, Denise Jones breaks down in tears. This was to give even more comfort to the staff who have carried body bags for patients who did not make it to them and helped families talk with their sick loved ones. Currently, there is very little joy in the staff’s everyday work, said Jones. Anything they can do to help them find some joy is greatly appreciated, Jones added.
She wakes up before dawn six or seven days a week, working six to seven hours each day. Watching Disney movies while she gets ready is her favorite pastime. There is, however, a limited amount of escape. On a wet morning, she drives into the office with tears in her eyes. Having watched her younger sister, who was battling leukemia, being treated by compassionate and skilled nurses, Hunt decided at age 6 to become a nurse.
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When Hunt was young, he was lively and upbeat. She now feels drained and exhausted. She has been asked by co-workers if she is OK or needs a break because of the change. It doesn’t seem feasible for me to take a break since we already lack nurses, she complained. The tears and exhaustion have already dried up by the time Hunt arrives at the Critical Care Unit for Infectious Disease around 6:30 a.m. She must be honest and compassionate towards COVID-19 patients.
A doctor and nurse move from room to room while medical equipment fills the hallways. Both are dressed in protective gear from head to toe. Although the hallways are busy, they remind the residents that just when things seem to be returning to normal, another outbreak of the pandemic has taken place.