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Everyones overwhelmed at this point: Caregivers challenged by latest pandemic surge – Minnesota Public Radio News


Dec 2, 2020

State officials say this is a critical time in the coronavirus outbreak, with hospitals across the region at or near capacity with the influx of COVID-19 patients.

This week, four Mayo Clinic staff members who have been working with COVID-19 patients since the beginning of the pandemic, talked about their experiences on a call with reporters.

Here are some excerpts from what they shared.

Amy Spitzner: ‘This is definitely the worst that it’s been for us right now’

a woman sits for a portrait

Mayo Clinic ICU nurse Amy Spitzner.

Courtesy of Mayo Clinic

Amy Spitzner is a registered nurse in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. She describes her shifts as 12 hours of caring for an almost overwhelming number of very sick patients.

Mayo ICU nurse Amy Spitzner

“This is definitely the worst that it’s been for us right now. It’s a time that I’ve never experienced before in my life, where you walk out of one room and the next patient is critical. The sickest you’ve ever seen in your life.”

“We can have them on the maximum amount of support, and we can still see their bodies giving out. It’s horrible to see, because we do absolutely everything that we possibly can, and even though all of our medicine, our support, everything we can do — their bodies still give out and they die in front of us, without their families. And we’re their only physical touch that they have when they’re leaving this world. It’s really hard to watch.”

Desirae Cogswell: ‘We are seeing the ugly side of this virus’

a woman smiles at the camera

Mayo Clinic respiratory therapist Desirae Cogswell

Courtesy of Mayo Clinic

Desirae Cogswell is a respiratory therapist in Mayo’s Rochester intensive care unit.

“I have heard people consider this a hoax. I can tell you from my point of view, which is not a good side of this virus, that it is not, it’s real, it’s here, and we have a choice to make, if we’re going to be part of the problem, or part of the prevention.”

“It kind of feels almost like a personal blow, just because we are seeing the ugly side of this virus. And I’m thankful that not a lot of people are seeing the side that we’re seeing.”

“I think everyone’s overwhelmed at this point. We are trying to take care of ourselves and our co-workers the best we can, but it is overwhelming. There’s a lot of things that we see that aren’t easy to deal with and just the surge in COVID cases and the amount of patients that we’re getting, it’s overwhelming, and we’re doing the best we can to keep up.”

Traci Kokke: ‘They don’t understand, and it’s so hard’

Traci Kokke is an infectious disease nurse in Mayo Clinic’s hospital in LaCrosse, Wis.

a woman poses for a photo

Infectious disease nurse Traci Kokke.

Courtesy of Mayo Clinic

“We don’t want to bring the emotions home, or the virus home. But it’s really important that we are here for each other and able to maintain our sanity.”

“Explaining to my 6-year-old why I can’t go trick-or-treating, why we only have Thanksgiving with us, and why we have to be away from the rest of the family right now, just trying to help him understand those things is really heartbreaking sometimes, because they don’t understand and so it’s hard. And reassuring them that it will end even though you’re not sure, reassuring yourself, and fighting that battle every day, because we’re gonna get up and we’re going to do it again tomorrow.”

Andrew Torres: ‘We’re fighting an uphill battle’

Andrew Torres is a paramedic with Mayo’s ambulance service.

a smiling man looks into the camera

Mayo Ambulance Service paramedic Andrew Torres.

Courtesy of Mayo Clinic

“I think the toughest thing is feeling like we’re fighting an uphill battle against people that don’t wear the proper precautions. Every day that we take care of someone, I think of how many more being infected because someone’s not wearing a mask or taking proper social distancing.”

“At work, I have all of the protections that Mayo Clinic offers. I have gloves, I have gowns, I have an ample number of masks. But sometimes when I go to the grocery store, I feel more naked than I do at work.”

“(I feel) a great gratitude that I get to be here for people in what might be one of the worst times of their lives during a pandemic like this. What’s changed about how I feel about my work is not just that we are here for you, but we’re here for each other as health care workers as well.”

Data in these graphs are based on the Minnesota Department of Health’s cumulative totals released at 11 a.m. daily. You can find more detailed statistics on COVID-19 at the Health Department website.

The coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets, coughs and sneezes, similar to the way the flu can spread.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.


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