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Life on the ward: ‘He said to me: doctor, am I going to die?’ | Health

Three intensive care employees share the tales which have remained hidden from public view throughout the pandemic.

Dr Katrina Tonga, respiratory guide

It was a watch opener seeing younger individuals are available with extreme respiratory sicknesses. We’re used to managing individuals with respiratory ailments, however not to the extent they have been nearly on dying’s door.

We had to speak to sufferers on the telephone, or, if we have been in the room, carrying PPE. They couldn’t have relations or pals so it was actually robust on them. It was heartbreaking seeing sufferers with their entire households in hospital, however they have been unfold all through Sydney. Generally they hadn’t had any contact till a FaceTime or Skype name.

Having to speak to relations on the telephone and making an attempt to relay how sick their member of the family was, or inform them they have been going to cross away, was a extremely difficult time. In my tradition – I’m Tongan – it’s very household oriented, and seeing Pacific islander households coming into hospital, and realizing that’s what they wanted, I assume some felt a bit extra reassured somebody may communicate to them in their very own language.

One among the sufferers I keep in mind was actually fairly sick. We have been getting him despatched to the intensive care unit. He was a younger man, I was on the telephone to his spouse wheeling him out and he said to me: ‘physician, am I going to die?’. And I thought in my thoughts, ‘you can’, however I had to reassure him we have been doing all the things we may and we have been sending him to intensive care to get the remedy he wanted.

Courtney Lace
Courtney Lace, Covid nurse supervisor at St Vincent’s hospital in Sydney.

Courtney Lace, Covid nurse supervisor

We had a blended mannequin on the ward – [first we] utilised the damaging stress rooms, then we put in bubbles, then we transitioned the remainder of the sufferers out, and we went full Covid.

It was all workers in full PPE from the minute they arrived. We arrange a donning station outdoors of the ward and had explicit nurses supervising the process. Their background is neurology, stroke, mind harm and all of the sudden they have been taking sufferers with respiratory points – they usually simply took it of their stride.

The acute sufferers have been very unwell, and this can be very labour-intensive on the nurses working in these areas, notably in the bubbles. It’s such a special method of nursing, it’s like a tent on the outdoors of the four-bedded bay in order that they’d be zipping by means of two units of tent to get into the affected person … It’s extraordinarily sizzling, actually dehydrating for the nurses as a result of they’ve obtained the full PPE on and it steams up actually shortly.

We did a switch late one night time, we had about 32 sufferers on the ward at the time, it was only a notably busy day, sufferers have been actually sick they usually deteriorated shortly with the Delta pressure … It actually hit residence seeing what number of sufferers have been in and the way sick they have been. It was very completely different to getting on the bus and heading residence to what was going on inside the hospitals. The general public have been protected against that.

Dr Priya Nair
Dr Priya Nair, director of intensive care at St Vincent’s hospital in Sydney. {Photograph}: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Photos

Dr Priya Nair, director of intensive care

When Covid got here, notably with the second wave, our work modified fully. It was actually a once-in-career kind expertise. I’ve by no means seen something prefer it earlier than, and most of my colleagues haven’t both.

We went from being a 20 mattress ICU which had two pods in it … to all of the sudden having to increase to a 4 pod ICU to accommodate our Covid sufferers. We additionally present providers for Covid sufferers with very extreme lung issues who can’t be sorted in different hospitals … so though there weren’t an enormous variety of Covid sufferers in our local people who wanted ICU, we have been seeing sufferers from all throughout New South Wales. Our workload elevated exponentially … We wanted many extra nursing workers, extra medical doctors, extra tools and more room and all of this got here with its logistical challenges.

The moments that stood out have been once we had a affected person dying with out their household having the ability to be there with them … Having to be their healthcare employees however their household at the identical time as nicely, you actually really feel that degree of humanity comes out at the time.

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