COVID ICU Nurse: "It gets worse every day." | Michigan Radio
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COVID ICU Nurse: "It gets worse every day."

Nov 25, 2020

The number of people in Michigan hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to rise. Already, many hospitals are stretched to their limit.

Our reporters have been speaking to frontline health care workers, and today we want to bring you the voice of Elise Pavlige. She’s an ICU nurse at Mercy Health in Muskegon, where inpatient cases have gone from less than 50 to more than 130 just this month.

Her words have been edited. Click above to listen.

On what it looks like at Mercy Health

"It just gets worse every day. Every day you walk in and it’s like, ‘Wow is this really happening?’

"We went from 10 beds of one unit over the summer, and now we have taken up the whole sixth floor, 30 beds of the sixth floor. And then we scrambled to open up another floor: the tenth floor, the ninth floor, the eighth floor, we’re overflowing onto the fifth floor, they're overflowing onto the second floor. And we're just - we’re overwhelmed with COVID patients.

"These people get so sick. The ones that get sick get so, so sick. Every system in their body shuts down. Our last, last resort is to put people on a ventilator. We are only doing it now if we absolutely have to. And they’re not gonna fare well, usually, if they get put on a ventilator. Outcomes are not good.

"I had a little man that wanted to call his family, call his wife. And he's maxed out on oxygen, next step is a ventilator and intubated. And he called her and she didn't answer because she's sick, too, not as bad as him. He left a message for her, just the sweetest message, then he got off the phone. The message he left her was reassuring her like, ‘I'm OK. I mean, things aren't better, but I'm OK,’

He looked me dead in the eyes and said, 'Am I going to go home?'

"And he gets off the phone and he looks at me and asks me, ‘How long does this usually take before people get to go home?’

"I responded, ‘Everybody's different. This virus affects everybody different and you don't know how it's going to affect you. And so I can't give you that answer.’

"And he looked me dead in the eyes and said, ‘Am I going to go home?’

"And I didn't have the heart to tell him that, probably not."

On taking the virus seriously

"You know, I have family members that don't take it serious. And it's extremely frustrating because, I mean, you have your family member telling you all this horrible stuff that is happening to them. These crazy amount of patient deaths, these traumatic situations that are happening to them and you still don't think it's real, or or think that it's not important enough.

"It's frustrating for us as health care workers, because we care about our neighbors, we care about our community. We want to get our community better. And when you have people that don't believe it, or don't want to believe it, they're just saying they don't care."

Elise Pavlige spoke to Dustin Dwyer for this story.