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Meriter ICU nurses working hard despite rising hospitalizations

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Meriter icu

MADISON (WKOW) -- Statewide hospitalizations remain over 2,000, though the number of patients is down from a couple days ago.

More than 400 of them are in intensive care units.

At UnityPoint Health Meriter, the Intensive Care Unit only has two rooms left for patients, and nurses are working more than 60 hours a week to take care of some of Madison's sickest patients.

The halls may be empty and silent, but that's only because the hard work is happening in patients rooms.

Nurses are busy doing everything they can to help patients survive COVID-19.

"We have an obligation to help everyone in our unit," Andrea Horne, one of the nurses on the floor said. "It's been challenging because some are just not getting better.

Horne has been a nurse for 20 years and has worked with 50 to 60 patients since the start of the pandemic.

The entire floor has seen more than 440 COVID-19 patients.

For privacy reasons, 27 News was not able to get video of them, but walking through the halls you could see the patients on ventilators in their rooms.

"It's hard to see them not doing well for a day and then you get little baby steps that they're doing better the next day, they take a couple steps back the day after that so it's just up and down all day," Horne said.

With all the struggles they see, nurses are getting help from mental health staff making rounds on the floor.

Meghan Henderson was there Friday morning with snacks and a short mental health check up.

"These teams work together very, very well and to take care of patients and, to feel like they're working as a team, even in the worst scenario or situations, it can really feel good," Henderson, the clinical practice leader for behavioral health said.

While morale is still standing strong on the floor for now the concern is that might start to drop fast if people continue to refuse to accept the seriousness of the disease as the months continue to drag on.

"Especially with how divided our country can be about this, I mean to see the news and see people not wearing masks and fighting the mandates, it is so hard for our staff to balance those two things," Henderson said.

She referred it to the disillusionment phase of dealing with crisis, as opposed to the honeymoon phase we saw at the start of the pandemic.

For Horne, that hurts even more when patients even in the ICU refuse to accept the reality of the situation.

"I actually had a patient whose loved one wasn't doing well, and as I was fitting them for a mask he goes 'This is all just so stupid,"', she said. "I go, 'Do you find your loved one dying right now really stupid too? Because I don't'."

That's why they want people to keep wearing masks and isolating, because it keeps more people out of their care, and in less dire circumstances.

They say they're still getting support from people and are doing their best to make their jobs more tolerable.

"We try humor to try to get through our days, and just little bits of sunshine can help us get through it," Horne said.

But when they are able to see their patients leave, it makes it all worth it.

"It's so humbling and so exhilarating to see that they're getting home and that they're going to be getting out of the hospital."

Francisco Almenara

Reporter, WKOW

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