COVID-19 crisis: Inside a critical care unit

Published: Nov. 11, 2020 at 9:36 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - 277 more Wisconsinites were hospitalized on Wednesday due to COVID-19, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Many hospitals around the state are at, or near, capacity with the recent spike in cases.

For three years Sam Pitts has worked as a Registered Nurse at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, currently working in the critical care unit.

She says she never imagined her career would look like it has over the last eight months.

“Before we were looking at it in New York and in Europe and it was hard to think how is that ever going to come here. No, we live far enough apart, in New York they’re so close together. And it’s here and it’s very scary,” said Pitts.

Wisconsin is in the midst of its worst COVID-19 outbreak to date.

Health officials say local hospitals are experiencing what was long feared, more people with the virus becoming hospitalized.

“Every day around here is different,” explains Pitts. “That’s one thing about just being a nurse, you never know what you’re going to walk in to but in the critical care unit things can change so drastically. That’s one of the biggest things we’ve seen with the COVID patients, they’re oxygen needs change drastically.”

About 30 nurses currently work in the CCU at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital.

Health care professionals are still working to understand the virus while treating more and more patients.

“Each patient is so different and the virus seems to attack people differently. So we’ll try something with someone and it’s like okay remember when that worked let’s try it again. It’s this collaborative approach everybody working together,” said Pitts.

She says one of the hardest parts for her is not being able to let family members in the CCU to see their loved ones.

After a 12 hour shift, Pitts says it’s hard to leave her emotions at work.

“When I go home there are days that I just don’t want to talk about it at all, it’s easier to just unwind by myself. Then there’s other days that I just want to go home and hug my fiancée and cry because I held somebody’s hand as they passed,” she said.

Pitts hopes community members can do their part to help lessen the load for local hospitals by staying home and wearing a mask.

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