A suburban Chicago woman shared her "unfiltered COVID ICU nurse experience" on Facebook over the weekend and her words have resonated with many as the coronavirus pandemic surges once again in Illinois and across the country.
Carol Williams, a nurse in Aurora, wrote a plea to her followers on social media to "just stop."
"Stop thinking this is just like the flu, it isn’t. Stop telling me the survival rate so it’s not a big deal, it is a big deal. Stop saying healthcare workers signed up for this, we didn’t," Williams wrote. "Stop ignoring science based recommendations of masking, social distancing, hand hygiene, and not gathering in large crowds, they work. Stop kidding yourself that this isn’t going to affect you or someone you love or know, it will."
Williams wrote that when she is asked her opinion on the pandemic, she gives people her "unfiltered Covid ICU nurse experience."
"No one wants to believe this is happening in their own backyard but it is and it isn’t pretty," her message read.
The post included a photo of Williams, lines from PPE still indented in her face, which she said showed her "after spending five hours inside a Covid positive ICU room working to save a patient."
"In this moment, I felt defeated because I already knew what the outcome would be even though it hadn’t happened yet," she wrote. "The inability to save a patient despite doing everything you can is mentally exhausting. Now imagine doing that on repeat for 8 months and counting."
She shares of crying with patients as reality sets in that "death is a real possibility" and sitting with them as they call or video chat with loved ones before being put on a ventilator as a last resort.
"Imagine being the nurse or doctor holding that same patient’s hand and stroking their head weeks later while their ventilator is removed because they haven’t improved and their family then says goodbyes and I love yous over FaceTime while they take their last breath," she wrote. "Now PLEASE IMAGINE BEING THE COVID ICU PATIENT. The breathlessness, pain, fear, loneliness, isolation, anxiety, hopelessness, and sadness. The need to use all your energy just to breathe. The true realization you may not get better and facing your own mortality. We do our best to calm fears, comfort and connect while providing the best care we can in their most vulnerable moments. I promise anyone reading this that your healthcare team will fight for you with every ounce of their being to get you better until every measure has been exhausted whether you are hospitalized with Covid or any other illness."
Williams, whose post was shared hundreds of times on Facebook, is one of many healthcare workers sounding the alarm during the latest surge of the virus.
Last week, a group of physicians and health care employees in Illinois warned that analysis of Illinois' coronavirus data shows the state could "surpass its ICU bed capacity by Thanksgiving" and deaths per day could peak by mid-December.
"We are better at identifying and treating this disease, and survival rates are improving slightly in COVID-19 patients since the start of this pandemic. This is good news, but has not changed the overall trajectory and danger of the pandemic," the group wrote. "COVID-19 hospitalizations in Illinois have doubled over the last three weeks, a very dangerous trend."
The physicians group said that overwhelming hospitals will force care to suffer for those with other "unforeseen emergent conditions, such as heart attacks, appendicitis, cancer diagnoses, and motor vehicle accidents."
"When hospitals hit capacity, if doctors and healthcare professionals lack hospital beds to treat people mortality will increase amongst all seriously-ill patients," the group wrote.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday that some healthcare regions in the state have seen more than triple the number of coronavirus hospitalizations than they did during the first wave of the virus earlier this spring.
Already, Northwestern Medicine has put a surge plan in place, along with visitor restrictions. Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago has reinstated its COVID rounds and its incident command center.
Both Amita Health System and Advocate Aurora are re-implementing strict no visitor policies as they grapple with a combined 1,000 cases throughout their systems.
Hospitalization numbers regularly lag behind increasing case numbers, and Illinois is seeing that take place. Case numbers began to spike in mid-October, along with a drastic increase in positivity rates, and hospitalizations weren’t far behind, as the number of residents who have been hospitalized because of the virus has nearly tripled since Oct. 1.
“We’re going to have to come up with some creative solutions to make sure that everyone has a bed, whether it’s for COVID, or whether it’s for a flu-like illness or a car accident, or for a heart attack. It’s a very imminent issue,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.
Williams ended her message with a final plea to those reading.
"Please do not discount all the lives lost or affected by this pandemic any longer," she wrote. "We need to come together as a country, NOW. We need to work together, NOW."