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“We are tired of watching people die,” Colorado ICU nurse exhausted as hospitals are filling up

Published: Nov. 24, 2020 at 6:45 PM MST
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - If UCHealth ICU nurse Hannah Paik could take everyone on a field trip on her hospital floor safely, she would. She wants everyone to know what’s happening in our communities, even if you can’t see it firsthand.

“We’d have you turn and prone patients with us!” Paik added sarcastically.

State data shows Colorado Springs only has 14 open ICU beds as of Tuesday and local hospitals are now preparing for the moment when they will not have space to care for those who need it most.

Paik says on her floor at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, she’s already seen makeshift beds to help with the surging caseload.

“It doesn’t feel like there is an end in sight,” Paik said.

The nurse works 12 or 13-hour shifts and said keeping up morale has been a challenge when she and her coworkers are faced with a mounting crisis, continuously gearing up to fight a battle we are losing country-wide.

She said the praise and support they were getting in the spring was amazing, but after a while, they would simply prefer people take action to stop the pandemic.

“We were all like, ‘I don’t care about food, don’t care about snacks.’ What we want and what we need is for people to wear their masks, to be responsible, to socially distance, because we can’t keep doing this!”

Working long hours is taking a toll, but Paik said it was the emotional burdens that seem to weigh the most and keep her from falling asleep.

“We are tired of our beds filling up,” Paik said. “We are tired of watching people die. We are also tired of hearing family members say, ‘Isn’t there anything else you can do?’ and for us to say ‘no.’”

Paik explained what we’ve known for a while: there is no easy fix to this right now, even with all our medical advances.

“There is not a cure for COVID-19; there is supportive care we can do for COVID-19, but there is no cure for it,” Paik adds.

“So I think that is part of the confusion when people say ‘I don’t understand, you are doing all of these things, why isn’t my family member being better?’ Well, all we are doing is trying to support your family member’s own immune system! There is no super medication that just comes in and eradicates COVID-19 like that.”

While we run out of space to put infected people statewide, Paik sees our medical workers inside those ICU rooms, helping families say their final goodbyes over an iPad.

“Our bedside nurses are holding these tablets and they are giving the patient the kiss or the hug for the family members … the family member can’t be there to do that,” Paik said.

“That is really hard to come to work and do every day.”

If you’d like to take a moment to thank a healthcare worker by sending them a short message online, you can do that here.

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