By a registered nurse
I am no writer, but in lieu of the recent negative stories being brought up by laypersons, I feel it is my duty as a nurse on the frontlines to speak the truth of what’s really happening in the hospitals.
A Jewish persona on Instagram (who has no credentials in healthcare) has been speaking out on behalf of some of her followers, attempting to “shine a light” on how awful the care has been at one of the major hospitals in Brooklyn. She claims patients are not only dying of Covid-19, but severe neglect as well.
I have been a Registered Nurse (RN) for 8 years, and have worked many specialties, including trauma, emergency, surgery, and more. I came to New York recently from Montreal to help out, as the epicenter of Covid-19 needed me more than any hospital at home.
There wasn’t one day in my career that prepared me for what I would see in New York City during the coronavirus crisis. I ran more “Code Blues’” in one single shift than in my whole entire career. I have held the hands of many frum patients, I have said Tehillim and viduy alongside those who were dying, and I have reached for a picture of the Rebbe in a patients’ purse and placed it at her pillow, moments before she was intubated.
In the last couple of weeks, some videos have been posted by “healthcare workers” and the family members of victims who have said that the care by the doctors and nurses in New York City has been terrible. They claimed that hospitals were deliberately killing patients, starving them, not trying our best to save them, and some have even gone as far as saying we beat them out of frustration.
Tens of thousands of staff have been working tirelessly since the beginning of March to help save others when their own families need them more now than ever. These despicable videos are made “viral” and people who are not medically trained or on the frontlines believe them. It is so frustrating and gut-wrenching to see what people are saying, so I am hoping to debunk any rumors that are being spread regarding the care of Covid-19 patients at this hospital in Brooklyn.
1. We are not starving our patients!
Nutrition is a big factor in the healing process. Most of these Covid patients are being tube fed and have intravenous fluids being administered. Therefore, while they may not be eating sandwiches, they are getting their nutrients. The main symptom of Covid-19 is oxygen deprivation, and these patients are often on high amounts of oxygen with masks and don’t have the ability to eat as their bodies are working so hard to compensate in order to keep breathing.
Most of these Covid patients are elderly, combining that with acute respiratory symptoms, you are at risk for aspiration pneumonia (an infection caused by inhaling food or liquid), so eating comes with great risk. Let me ask you: When you’re sick, are you hungry? Almost all the patients who were able to eat, did not. Their trays left untouched and when asked “Mr. So-so, can I give you at least an apple sauce? The answer was often “No”. It should go without saying that a patient who is intubated is unconscious and cannot be fed by mouth, but by intravenous fluids.
2. Patients often become delirious.
But then we hear “he wasn’t confused when he came into the hospital.” Yes, you are correct, however this virus often comes with fever, and that combined with countless days in a hospital bed and no contact other than hospital staff, delirium is a common but reversible disturbance. This is especially prevalent in an ICU environment.
So when you hear your mother or father say that they are hungry, or that someone hurt them, or that they haven’t seen a nurse in days, please remember that we as nurses have strict guidelines on rounding on our patients, turning them, giving them their medications and tending to any other need they may have.
3. Patients are not black-and-blue because we hit them out of frustration.
Covid-19 patients are given subcutaneous heparin which is an anticoagulant (prevents the formation of blood clots), and the main side effect is bruising / bluish-colored skin. Not only does the heparin cause this, but these older frail patients have very fragile skin and veins, so blood tests and IVs cause these bruises as well. This DOES NOT mean patients are being abused in any way! This is a reversible side effect of the medication and while it may appear frightening, it is usually not painful or harmful.
4. We are doing everything we can.
As Jews, we live by the principle of doing everything in our power to keep people alive. This means that even though the patient is very sick, and being kept alive by a ventilator, we still treat them with the utmost respect and dignity. We are in fact doing everything we can to get patients better and return home to their families, but just because it isn’t always the case, doesn’t mean we aren’t trying.
Please remember this is a pandemic. The hospitals are flooded with patients and the staff are overworked. If a patient’s call bell is not answered as quickly as it has in the past, it’s because the nurse is distributing medications to 10 other patients. It’s because the neighbor’s ventilator alarm is going off. It’s because the woman down the hall has another chest X-Ray. It’s because the nurse is looking everywhere for a spare gown. It’s because the man in room 714 just took his last breath.
We became health practitioners because we care. We want to be by your side and hold your hand through the toughest of times. We want to see you get better and go on to live a beautiful healthy life outside of the hospital walls.
I am truly hoping this article resonates with each and every one of you who has taken time to read it. Please know that the nurses, doctors, techs, and every person who is working during the Covid-19 crisis, is doing their ultimate best to treat your loved ones as if they were their own family members.