DENVER — Our Colorado healthcare workers have been on the frontline of the COVID-19 epidemic. But even as the stress of their jobs mounted here at home, some have traveled to hotspots such as New York City and New Jersey to help battle the crisis there.
Amy Espinosa, a registered nurse in the Emergency Department at St. Anthony North Hospital in Westminster, was one of those healthcare workers who went to help. Espinosa is now one week through a three-week assignment at St. Joseph's Health hospital in Paterson, New Jersey, one of the busiest hospitals in the nation.
She's working in the intensive care unit at the hospital, a new experience for her despite her time in the emergency room.
This past week, Espinosa shared her experience in video diaries, showing the emotion, exhaustion and passion of the healthcare workers on the frontline. Watch Espinosa's full video diaries here, via Centura Health.
Here's a recap from each day:
• "Everybody always wants to know the why. Why would I pack up and leave within four days notice to a hotspot that’s losing hundreds of people daily? And why would I put my own life at risk? It's because it’s who I am. It’s who I was born to be. I aspire to be the best nurse and provide the best care that I can. It's a passion of mine. It’s my life. I didn’t question traveling and leaving a young family behind. I just did it because that’s what we do as nurses."
• "But I think the big moment for me was going to the hospital. Meeting the mayor, the CEO, and walking down a hallway filled with employees so grateful we’re here to relieve them of much needed stress — emotional, physical, draining stress."
• "Wow, today was demanding. Today was challenging ... I’m learning a tremendous amount, but I’m also balancing learning and caring for these extremely sick patients."
• "We are the only connection to this dying patient and family. Since families are not allowed into the ER, we are their only connection, and it’s very hard to know to know that this patient dies — they may only see me instead of their family who they want to see. It's hard, but we are doing it. You just work hard and you go for it and you do and give it everything you have at 100%. And we will survive, and we will come out of this learning and able to fight this beast even more."
• "Unfortunately this terrible disease, [this] beast virus, is taking many many lives, and that is very hard to take in when that’s what we do. We save lives, and we work very hard to save their lives and when we lose one, it hurts. We just need to support and love each other and know we will get through this and there is a light at the end of the tunnel."
• "This disease is tough on the patients — ventilators, multiple drugs. The disease doesn’t just affect the lungs. It's other organs in the body, so we are fighting every day to support everything that’s going on with the patient."
• "And I feel a bit unprepared for this, but who is prepared for this? None of us have been trained on how to handle these demands that are placed on us for 12-13 hours a day. But we fight and we dig deep inside and we fight and we sacrifice knowing that we will have good outcomes eventually. I’m grateful to serve here in New Jersey with my fellow ER nurses, ICU nurses, surgeons, doctors, hospital staff. We will beat this beast. We will overcome our battles."
• "We continue to save some lives and lose some lives with this horrible beast COVID."
• "Their lungs are just so bad and then they are having multiple other problems like kidney failure, we’re doing dialysis in the ER. They’re having blood clotting problems, it's just horrendous."
• "My face hurts. It's so sore you just want [the mask] off. I think it took it off twice today. That’s a long time in a 12-hour shift."
• "This [healthcare] family here at St Joseph have seen war-like conditions. They have explained it like they’re living in a third-world country. Lives changed forever and ever."
• "But I'm learning a lot and it's fantastic. Cheers to another day down."
• "I’m tired tonight. I'm emotionally and physically drained."
• "No. 1, I miss my family. I miss my baby girls and my husband."
• "Today was rough. I had three ICU patients and I’m thinking to myself I can do this, I can make it through this. I can handle 3 ICU patients because I’m an ICU nurse, not never have I been an ICU nurse. We perform a lot of ICU duties down in the ER, but we just hope that they get up to their unit really fast. Plus I had a couple extra ER patients to add in the mix, so no big deal, it’s just some simple stuff."
• "I miss my ER techs that help me. I basically do everything on my own."
• "It's OK to sacrifice once in a while, and I feel like that’s what I'm doing, sacrificing for the greater good."
• "I'm going to bed, I’m exhausted. Another day down in New Jersey."