NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Many people are breathing a sigh of relief as COVID-19 case numbers level off and hospitalizations drop but New Mexico nurses are not. Nurses from around the state are decompressing and reflecting on what they’ve seen and experienced in the COVID unit during a single 12-hour shift in a new PSA campaign called the Drive Home.
“I had a patient who was just in late-stage organ failure and they ended up passing and they were in their 20s and, you know, they had a child and the mom is there at bedside and she’s crying and the daughter was on the phone. She was young, like 5 or 7, and she’s saying bye mommy and, you know, stuff like that I think it really affects me and sometimes I have to take a moment,” said Chanute Abe, a nurse at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.
Nurses working in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos all say most days are hard. They are the ones sitting with people who are passing away since families cannot be there. A nurse from Taos says she’s had to accept that most COVID patients who go to her hospital, are not going to make it.
The New Mexico Hospital Workers Union put on these PSA videos now to encourage New Mexicans to wear a mask, get a vaccine, and to remind people that the fight is not over. Even with a vaccine making its way to the general public, the nurses say the virus still needs to be taken seriously, while giving a firsthand account of what COVID patients are facing in their hospitals. “We have ventilated ICU patients, two in one room; They opened another floor; They doubled up a lot of the rooms. We have a patient in a closet. None of us want to see anybody dying from this,” said Suzanne Bell, another nurse at UNMH.
The nurses say they don’t want anybody else going through the emotional pain they have been dealing with since March but want people to know what this past year has been like for them.