PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - Christy Pierce has been a registered nurse working in Singing River Hospital’s Medical Intensive Care Unit for 14 years. In that time, she’s seen a lot but she’s never been up against anything like COVID-19.
Because she and others like her are working at the bedsides of patients diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, it has meant some big changes.
Christy can’t hug her children when she gets home after work. She can’t see her parents or other loved ones. She can’t even do something as simple as making dinner for her family. All of these things could put those closest to her that much more at risk of catching the virus.
Despite these upheavals, Christy and her colleagues in the ICU remain optimistic, working together to care for patients who are alone, frightened and very, very sick.
"I wish that I could show how sick these people were so that people, you know young people who are still getting together that will carry the virus but not necessarily be very sick from it, will stay home,” Pierce said.
‘Safer at Home’ is a philosophy and practice that’s being pushed by elected officials statewide. However, for medical staff on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, staying home is simply not an option.
For them, the possibility of bringing the virus home is very real.
“I have coworkers that have little babies that are terrified to come in here. My children are older. I have a coworker Brian, his son has leukemia and he had to take a leave of absence. He is not here right now because of the risk of this. They are socially isolating and not seeing anyone at home. And then, you have our geriatric population. That’s the risk. That’s who we should be protecting by staying home and not carrying the virus around. That’s how we stop it.”
Pierce and her colleagues are taking extra precautions to keep their families safe.
"I have a mother-in-law suite in my house and so I shower out there and when I’m finished, I have a Clorox wipe box and I wipe down everything that I touch coming in and coming out. Most of us are not taking the shoes that we wear here into our house. They are not leaving our car for most of us. We call them our corona shoes. I have a corona car.”
Despite the stress and worry that comes with fighting this novel coronavirus ,Pierce is steadfast in her role as a nurse.
“I cannot go into a patient’s room thinking, ‘What if I catch this virus and take it home to my family?’ I can’t do that. I have to be present for my patients. I have to be focused on my patients. I can’t be worrying about my risk. I have to know that the hospital has provided me with the appropriate PPE, I have put it on appropriately. Now, I need to do my job.”
Right now, she says, Singing River Hospital has PPE stocked.
“Right now, we’re getting one mask per shift and at the end of our shift, we don’t have to keep it for us because we’re going to get another mask when we come on our shift again.”
She says the hospital staff is a solid unit, in line with one another when it comes to tasks and patient needs.
“We really are a team unit here because I can be in a room - I have on two masks, a face shield, and I’m in a room with a closed door - but if I need something, they’ve got to be on the same page. When I holler or point, they go and bring it to me because I cannot go in and out.”
Nurses have even stepped into new roles to allow their patients some precious “face” time with family.
“A couple of people have used our personal phones to FaceTime family members and let them see the patients because they just want to see them. They’ve been in here - sometimes they are on life support in here for days and they can’t come and they can’t see.”
As for the fight against the virus, Pierce is maintaining optimism.
“I have never experienced anything as scary as this is before but it is my job and it is what I am supposed to do. What else can I do but say, you know what, I’m going to trust that this is going to be okay, that my equipment is going to protect me, and that I’m going to do all the steps. I am going to wash my hands and I am not going to take this home to my family."