LANSING, Mich. — With the new Omicron variant spreading across the United States and Delta still in full swing, nurses and staff at Sparrow Hospital say they're busting at the seams with COVID patients.
“We’re tired, a lot of nurses are very tired," said Sparrow Nurse Leah Rasch.
Rasch has been a nurse in the seven west COVID ward since the start of the pandemic.
“In the beginning you know, it was scary for everybody because it was new," Rasch said. "Patients were scared, family was scared, we were scared."
Now two years later, Rasch is just one of many staff feeling overwhelmed.
“We’re tired. We’re so so tired," Rasch said. "People are getting very sick and people are dying.”
Down in the five west wing, Assistant Manager Katie Sefton is also dealing with the emotional toll.
“We had one a couple weeks ago," Sefton said. "It was horrid and it didn’t hit me until the next day where I just sobbed all day where I just finally realized this young lady is gone with children that she left and just family that loved her.”
And it doesn't go away at the end of her shift.
“It's always there at home," Sefton said. "My kids always ask how people are doing at the hospital so they want to know if our Sparrow people are feeling better. It's just never gone. It's always there."
With Michigan COVID numbers spiking to all time highs in recent weeks, hospital staff are working overtime.
“This surge has definitely shown us a lot more acutely ill patients," said Department Manager Mandi Bates. "These patients are a lot sicker. More so than any surge we’ve had.”
Bates said they're seeing patients of all ages.
“This literally goes from teens to 80’s, 90’s and it really wreaks havoc on all of them,” she said.
But most of them do have one thing in common.
“About 80 percent of our patients that are inpatients are unvaccinated,” Sefton said.
Dale Baldwin came to Sparrow about three weeks ago.
“I’m here for COVID," Baldwin said. "I got to the point that I couldn’t function anymore, like literally could not function.”
Before contracting the virus, Baldwin says he didn't believe in getting the vaccine.
“I was one of the die hard, no I’m not blah blah blah," Baldwin said. “It was the stupidest thing I did. I would never go through this again.”
As the pandemic progressed, Rasch said they thought things were turning around.
“I think we thought it would get better and it really hasn’t," Rasch said. "I mean we’ve seen just an influx of patients with the same thing respiratory issues and it’s still here worse than ever... I wish that it wasn’t real, but it is."
“We had a family member come up he saw his loved one and he said ‘I still don’t think it’s real’ and I said well if we took that mask off this person they would probably die,” Sefton said.
All of the patients at Sparrow have to fight against the virus in isolation.
“The doors always shut you can’t go in and see people," Rasch said. "Your gowns, your mask, you can’t touch them.”
“It’s just hard because everything we’re throwing at them sometimes doesn’t help and it’s a waiting game," Rasch said. "They’ll either sit and get worse and turn the corner and get better.”
Still, the nursing staff at Sparrow says they'll continue to do everything they can.
“When you come into the hospital we want to help you we want to do everything we can for you and this virus can just hinder all that," Rasch said. "We can't just throw all these medications at you and you’re miraculously better.”
But they hope people will listen.
“I just want them to see that this is a reality, this isn’t something we’re making up, it's a horrible infection and it does cause death,” Sefton said.
“It’s time to wake up," Baldwin said. "This hits and it hits hard. Now's the time to do something.”
Bates said they have seen a slight dip in numbers, but expect them to go back up after the holiday season.
All three nurses said to stay safe this holiday season: Wear masks when appropriate, scale down gatherings to smaller groups and get vaccinated.
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