REDDING, Calif.- As of Thursday, Shasta County has 99 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and 17 in the ICU as the county deals with a surge of patients due to the delta variant.
Nurses at Mercy Medical Center in Redding are on the front lines, being asked to take longer shifts while dealing with staff shortages.
"Basically, for us nurses it’s like working in a war," Registered Nurse K.C. Corvet said.
Corvet has been on the front lines of the pandemic for almost two years. Despite her long career in health care, Corvet hasn't seen anything like the recent surge.
"I worked ER for 40 years and I thought I had seen it all, but COVID and working with these patients is probably the hardest but also sometimes the most rewarding thing that I’ve done," Corvet said.
While working under stressful conditions nurses at Mercy Medical Center say they have become closer, helping each other get through the day.
Staff is being spread thin with nurses having to take 18-hour shifts, an additional six hours from a normal shift.
Some of the staff are sick themselves, leading to nurses being more worn out than ever.
"People are tired and it’s hard to watch people come in that are sick and trying to help them when the family can not come in and visit," Registered Nurse Donnae Grover said.
Visitors are still not allowed for patients, leading to some ICU nurses like Corvet helping patients say their final goodbyes through a screen.
"Recently, I helped a man say goodbye to his wife. He decided to go to comfort care because he couldn’t bear it anymore and I was able to reach her by phone and he was able to say goodbye and he loved her," Corvet said. "It is a huge privilege to be there for that but very difficult."
While dealing with long hours and difficult situations all day, some nurses like Josie Hall are turning to mindfulness exercises to prepare for the long shift ahead.
"I have definitely found myself having to do a lot more mindfulness when I’m on my way to work," Hall said. "I have to go through a lot more intentional kind of thinking about how am I going to make this day good even if X, Y, or Z happens related to the pandemic."
Those techniques can only do so much when patients are looking for comfort.
Hall told Action News Now the situation for a patient can change in an instant, leaving nurses not knowing when or if their patients will get better.
"They literally will look at you and say I’m not ready to die, I don’t want to die alone in this hospital, and that just breaks your heart," Hall said.
Most COVID-19 patients at Mercy Medical Center are unvaccinated.
Infectious disease physician Dr. Matthew Miles has seen patients change their tune about the vaccine after being hospitalized.
"I deal with a lot of these patients and you look at them because by far and away the majority in the hospital are unvaccinated, but I can tell you also that a majority of those patients have a lot of regret on their faces for not getting vaccinated," Dr. Miles said.
Dr. Miles and nurses told Action News Now that the community needs to help hospitals, and encourage people to make the personal choice to get vaccinated before they end up in their care.
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