We get off duty and cry, tell Anna Wilczyńska the nurses, who are often the last ones to come into contact with those dying of COVID-19. Mourning the dead has become their nightmare. Material of the magazine “Polska i Świat”.
Sometimes the only thing they can do for the patient’s family is to put the rosary in a black corpse bag – packed in a small package, with the annotation “in case of death”. Unfortunately, nurses from the covid intensive care unit in Zakopane have to fulfill this request more often than they would like.
– We meet many times such a situation that a young man in his 40s dies and we, being aware of our helplessness, leave the shift and cry – admits Dorota Trojańska, a nurse with 32 years of experience.
Overburdened medical staff
Trojańska works in a 12-bed covid intensive care unit in Zakopane. – We come to work, we take care of patients who are 95 percent unvaccinated and 95 percent simply die – adds Trojańska.
Nurses work beyond their strength – often in two or three facilities – to prevent the system from collapsing completely. Working in uncomfortable overalls was easier to get used to than to the everyday sight of people who could not be helped anymore.
“It is taking so long that we are terribly tired.” I don’t know how long we’ll all last. This is the last moment when any decisions should be made to minimize the spread of this pandemic – emphasizes Trojańska.
COVID-19 patients connected to ventilators and ECMO
Healthcare professionals use the word “helplessness” everywhere, and wonder if nonvaccinated people are unaware of what exactly it means to be attached to a ventilator.
– A stay in the ventilator section means that the patient is in a pharmacological coma, intubated, i.e. has a tube inserted at least 25 centimeters into the trachea, and this tube is connected to a ventilator, i.e. a machine that delivers oxygen and relaxes the lungs through this tube – explains Dr. Magdalena Wiśniewska, the head of the Temporary Hospital in Szczecin.
This is the time when the patient will not know what is happening to him. He will be completely dependent on other people. If the ventilator is not enough – ECMO will be needed. – Two large cannulas are inserted into large vessels, i.e. a large artery and a large vein. Instead of going to the lungs and heart, all the blood is led outside. There, it is oxygenated and only returns to humans – explains Dr. Wiśniewska.
Before this happens, covid patients experience severe shortness of breath. – The feeling of breathlessness is the worst possible mood that can be imagined – emphasizes the head of the hospital in Szczecin.
Paramedic: we will have to choose who is going to die
Medical workers are now better prepared to fight the pandemic – says paramedic Ariel Szczotok, but also more frustrated. The more that most covid trips are made to unvaccinated patients.
– These are people whose blood oxygen saturation is critical. This in itself is life threatening. These are people who have visual disturbances or neurological symptoms, including sudden stroke, and the most severe patients are patients with pulmonary embolism, i.e. in a state of immediate life-threatening, who, unfortunately, we cannot save and die within 24 hours – Szczotok points out.
Already at his station, every third ambulance goes to a person with COVID-19. If the forecasts for the fifth wave are correct – the system will not cope. – We will face the next drama of choosing a bed for a patient with a newly diagnosed colorectal cancer or a woman with breast cancer and a man with severe circulatory insufficiency, and we will have to choose who is to die – adds Szczotok.
Many patients declare – while in hospital – that they will get vaccinated at the earliest possible date. However, many did not live to see it.
Main photo source: PAP / Leszek Szymański