Memorial nurse practitioner describes job in pandemic

A Memorial Health System nurse practitioner took to social media to share her experience on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 and encourage people to get vaccinated against the virus.

“From a health care perspective, it’s really, really emotionally wrecking. It’s really hard to see so many patients dying,” Megan Barnette said as she fought back tears in a Facebook Live post she made Wednesday and her employer shared Thursday. “And we’re to that point where, nearly every shift, a COVID-vented patient is coding now.”

Marietta Memorial Hospital this week exceeded its previous high count of 74 to 75 COVID patients back in January, hospital officials said. The intensive care unit has been serving twice as many patients as intended.

As of Thursday, the hospital’s COVID census had dipped below that high, but there were still 73 patients with COVID-19, according to its Facebook page. Of those, 62 were unvaccinated, which hospital officials said in previous posts includes those who were not 14 days beyond their second dose.

There were 15 COVID patients in the hospital’s ICU, nine unvaccinated and six vaccinated, the Health System said. Fifteen were on ventilators, nine unvaccinated and six vaccinated.

At WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center, where officials diverted patients for a large portion of Tuesday due to strains on the oxygen system, there were 77 COVID patients, 16 of whom were vaccinated, as of Thursday afternoon. Fifteen of the COVID patients were in ICU. Of those, two were vaccinated. The number of patients on ventilators was not immediately available Thursday afternoon.

Saying the situation was “weighing heavily on my heart (and) I had to get it out there,” Barnette described what working at Memorial was like last year.

“We were really shook in the health care system, because it was shocking. People were dying, and it was COVID, and it was a pandemic, and it was really upsetting. Because as health care workers … you want to help people,” she said. “Unfortunately, it seemed whatever we did to try to help, it kind of didn’t matter.”

The arrival of the vaccines and subsequent decreases in case numbers offered hope.

“It was like this heaviness was lifted from us because we thought, ‘OK, it’s going to be good.’ The summer seemed OK, and then, recently, it’s not been OK,” Barnette said.

While many of those who died because of the virus last year were older, with underlying health conditions, she said, that isn’t the case now, as the more-contagious delta variant has caused numbers to rise again.

“We are losing 30-year-olds and 40-year-olds. And a very common theme is that they were not vaccinated,” Barnette said.

“I know vaccines can be scary, especially when they’re new,” she continued. “But … I often wish the general public could see what it’s like to have a severe case of COVID and go on a ventilator, because I think they would choose whatever possible side effects that may come from a vaccine over dying from COVID. I don’t think the general public understands, it’s an agonizing way to die, honestly.”

Barnette offered to answer questions about vaccines or find the answers she didn’t know. She also posed a question to those watching.

“If you got COVID, and unfortunately you were not vaccinated and you spread it to your parent or to your grandparent and they died from COVID, knowing that you could have been vaccinated, could you live with that, knowing that you could have possibly helped prevent that death?” she said.


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