COVID-19 diary from a pulmonary nurse

Matt works with COVID-19 patients, got vaccinated at his first chance

Portrait of a Sanford Health nurse. He is in an exam room and wearing glasses and blue scrubs.

Sanford Health News asked nurses to share their experiences with COVID-19 patients and their reasoning for getting vaccinated. These are Matt’s words.

I began my career in Sanford Health on the pulmonary department 12 years ago. And I’ve stayed there ever since.

I was vaccinated in December of 2020 the first day it came out. So I got vaccinated because I work on a COVID unit. I have seen every scenario play out that has been seen on TV multiple times over. It is like clockwork, how it works.

I’ve been working out at a COVID unit since day one. I had uncertainty if I was going to get it working so close to patients with COVID. After receiving the vaccine, I felt safe. My wife is vaccinated. For us, it was easy.

Getting the vaccine was an easy decision for my wife and I. We looked at the science, the methodology, and we really appreciate the science behind it and all the work that went through it and we believe in that. For my wife and I, it was important for us to know that the research was done correctly, that we see results, the data is there, the facts are there. We looked at the science and it was important to us that those things showed that it worked, the efficacy, the rate of keeping people out of the hospital.

I currently see it every day. I’m working on the unvaccinated. And then when I see someone with the vaccine, they are not requiring oxygen as much. They are having a much milder case. Generally, it’s just their weakness that’s keeping them in the hospital.

For my wife and I, it was important to know that the vaccine was safe and effective. I want to protect myself and my family. I come home every day and I have a family. I want to protect them. I know I’m going into a hospital that has COVID sick patients. I want to go home knowing that I’m going to be able to protect my wife and the rest of my family from ever having a severe case of this disease.

I take great pride in our community. I love Sioux Falls. I love the surrounding communities. I visit all the small towns around here. The easiest way to protect our communities is to get vaccinated. I’ve worked on the COVID unit since day one — I’m tired and our co-workers are tired, but we are relentless. We keep coming back. We know we have a duty. Our unit is busy beyond description, and COVID-19 has definitely taken a toll on our nursing staff.

I’ve seen COVID cases come and go. People leave the hospital, near their baseline of what they came in before. I’ve seen patients leave and they need lung transplants. I’ve seen patients leave with home oxygen. I’ve seen patients not make it out of the hospital.

Because I’m on a COVID unit, I’ve seen every outcome. I’ve seen patients come and go leaving the hospital as healthy as before COVID, I’ve seen patients leave with oxygen. The hardest part about treating patients with COVID-19 is the reality of when they show up, they don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. Being in isolation, being behind closed doors, unable to see your family, fighting for your life is very intense. And the reaction we see with patients is I should’ve got my vaccine.

Treating patients with COVID-19, their families are extremely stressed. They are calling in daily. Sometimes multiple times, many family members are calling in. They want answers. They want to know what’s going on. It’s not likely that it can be at bedside with them. So it’s very scary for them. By far the worst symptom of COVID-19 when patients come to the hospital is their shortness of breath. They are unable to get up and walk two feet. Two steps is a mile for them. Their oxygen numbers dropped so fast that the nurses are running into the room and all they’re doing is eating or talking on the phone.

The thing that people misunderstand about COVID-19 the most is that even if you survive it, what happens after it? Your lungs have scarring. You’re short of breath. The recovery is long. You might need a rehab stay. The amount of oxygen you might have to go home with is life-changing. I’ve seen patients leave to the nursing home or a rehab stay. I’ve seen patients come in so sick that they need lung transplants. And I’ve also seen many, many patients not make it out of the hospital alive.

You honestly never know how bad COVID-19 will affect you or how severe the case will be. Please do your part and get vaccinated. You can make a difference.

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Posted In Coronavirus, Immunizations, Nursing and Nursing Support, Pulmonology, Sanford Stories

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