Indiana nurse: ‘I can describe the sound a zipper on a body bag makes’

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS (WXIN/WTTV) – Healthcare workers in Indiana on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic want others to see the crisis from their perspective.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Indiana nearly doubled in November alone. On November 30, Indiana set its highest COVID-19 hospitalization record with 3,460 patients. Most of us will never understand what it is like to be on a COVID-19 ICU floor, but these healthcare workers know the faces behind the numbers.

“I have never felt this tired in my life,” said Jody White, a respiratory therapist at IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

As a respiratory therapist, White cares for COVID-19 patients hooked up to ventilators. She explained her hospital is opening more units to increase bed capacity.

“We get to know a lot of these patients before they take a turn and see how scared they get,” she said. “That is hard to watch also.”

Her kids begged her not to work in the COVID-19 ICU. White has struggled with her own respiratory issues for most of her life.

“I love to be around my family and the really sick ones that pass away without family, that sucks a lot,” said White.

Across Indiana, and the nation, hospitals are feeling the strain.

Healthcare workers are fatigued, and they are discouraged to see the numbers continue to rise.

Some frontline workers with Indiana University Health have created video diaries to describe what it is like to work in the ICU during the pandemic.

“I can describe the sound the zipper on a body bag makes,” said Brandie Kopsas-Kingsley, ICU nurse. “I know the feeling of my hand on a chest and the feeling of two minutes of CPR before the next pulse check.”

“I can describe with great detail the odd and very ugly of purple-ish grey you turn when your body is suffocating. So, for me, whereas I cannot understand the numbers, I can understand humans behind those numbers and that every single one of those was a life,” she said.

One respiratory nurse at Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis continued to work even as her father fought COVID-19 at another ICU. She said he did not have any pre-existing conditions and he is doing much better.

“It was a roller coaster just seeing what I saw at work,” said Stephanie Collins.

As hospitals begin to reach their limit, healthcare workers are struggling with their own. Some worry they will not have places to put patients if the numbers do not start to go down.

“It is what we need to do,” said White. “I mean, to keep everybody safe and everybody healthy and it angers me that people are disregarding it.”

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