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Quad City ICU Nurse goes into detail about the strain of the surge

Nurses say they take it personally when people don't wear a mask, as hospital beds fill up and patients get sicker.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — For nine months, Michelle Gibson Lake has watched patients suffer and die from COVID-19. She does everything she can for them as a nurse in the intensive care unit. But sometimes the virus wins.

"People ask me, 'Is it as bad as they say?' Yes. Yes, it's terrible," she tells them. 

Especially now, as a new surge of cases is overwhelming the healthcare system in the Quad Cities. Michelle says the message of frontline workers isn't getting out there. She agreed to an interview with News 8 to share what she thinks are the problems within the hospital that are impacting patient care.

"I don't think anyone wants us to take the masks off, so to speak," she said.

She's worried that supplies and staffing can't keep up with the volume of new cases. There's a waiting list for convalescent plasma, a therapeutic that's taken from people who have recovered from COVID-19. While she helps the sickest patients in the ICU, the medical floor has doubled up it's patient rooms to make space for people with COVID. 

"They are forced to take sicker patients that would normally be sent to ICU, because we don't have the beds," she explained. 

Adding to the stress is the shortage of doctors and nurses, as they get sick themselves. It's forcing everyone to pick up extra shifts. She says Genesis is starting to offer more financial incentives for picking up overtime hours, and she says she's expecting to get a one-time hazard pay bonus soon. She says the money helps, but the emotional impacts are still there.

"Before, I would give myself more of a breather after my patient died," she said. "I would look up their obituary, read it and sometimes donate flowers. Now, no. I cannot allow myself to get that attached to them, because I know the next one is coming so quickly."

At this point, the promise of a vaccine is keeping her going. She says she has little faith that anyone will change their habits.

"It means a lot to us the people that do wear a mask and that do stay home when they can. We take it personal when people choose not to."

The full interview is available now as an episode of Denise Hnytka's podcast, "On A Mother Level". Look for episode 55 on your favorite podcast app.