United Hospital COVID-19 ICU nurse Tanya Schipp told KSTP those three months were the toughest months of her career, which spans more than two decades.
“Those months were horrific because there were just so many patients, and they just kept coming,” said Schipp, who worked in the COVID-19 ICU for the 10 months it was operating. “I mean, that is the busiest, and most sick that I have ever seen our ICU patients ever in my career, and it was hard for everyone to keep up.”
Schipp and other health care workers at United Hospital said there were nearly 100 COVID-19 patients at the hospital for many weeks, and one whole ICU unit was created to serve only COVID-19 patients.
“I remember the sound of everybody’s monitors alarming at the same time, and that added to the stress,” Schipp said. “I mean, you might have four patients with dangerously low levels of oxygen who all need help at once, and then how do you choose which of those alarms to respond to first?”
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Amanda Peterson also worked in United Hospital’s COVID-19 ICU for 10 months. She told KSTP the constant flow of COVID-19 patients was emotionally hard to handle.
“You just watch them progress down these stages of critical, and they either bend off and make it or keep going and they die and the next one comes,” Peterson said. “It was just an assembly line of the same thing and you never knew what the next day would bring.”
Dr. Justin Cohen worked alongside Peterson and Schipp in United’s COVID-19 ICU. He said he is not sure if the staff has been able to entirely process what those peak months were like for them emotionally.
“One of the assumptions we made was that 25% of our staff would either be quarantined, ill or dead,” Cohen said. “I was wondering who among my colleagues am I going to be taking care of? Whose wife will we be taking care of, or mom, or dad? And eventually, we all experienced one of those things.”
Last month United Hospital removed its COVID-19 ICU, but the facility still has COVID-19 patients.