KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A registered nurse who worked through the entire pandemic looks back on the past two years as National Nurses Week is coming to an end.
Heather Vasquez says the fight against COVID-19 continues, with cases still popping up in Kansas City and beyond.
According to the Mid America Regional Council Database, the daily number of new Covid-related admissions since the beginning of May has been less than 60 a day, and the average number of daily cases is 163 as of Friday.
“I think you just, you mourn as a nurse. Nurses mourn, and then you put on your mask again and go into the next room because you have to be there,” Vasquez said.
She works in the emergency room at Saint Luke’s Health System and says that although current figures are optimistic, the pandemic has taught her and the team to prepare for the unexpected.
Right now, Saint Luke’s doctors are seeing an increase in patients who have developed complications from the virus.
Doctors see people coming in who had COVID-19 and are still experiencing shortness of breath, and people who have experienced strokes and other heart-related complications after a virus diagnosis. In addition, the majority of these patients are between 30 and 40 years old.
“We know it’s not, it’s not done, but it’s definitely down. We also see a lot of patients with similar long-distance symptoms, ongoing heart complications, breathing complications, things like that,” Vasquez explained.
It is also no secret that COVID-19 has changed the healthcare sector and many frontline employees are burnt out.
Vasquez says she understands why many of her colleagues went.
“You had a new pandemic that most of us might just worry about, like watching movies, and all of a sudden it comes through your front doors, and we were not sure exactly what we were going to do in the beginning. The rules changed constantly, ”Vasquez recalled.
She says constant change continues to motivate her to show up for work, but it does not happen without sacrifice.
At one point, she balanced work, school, and being a mother.
“The stress of coming home from work having a stressful shift and seeing the things you saw during your shift at the time, coming home, educating my son and then trying to stress, you know, getting through school and all that was too much stress, “Vasquez said. “So I had to take a step back from school for now.”
It is unclear when she will be able to return to school, so Vasquez says her focus is on taking care of her patients and her Saint Luke’s family.
“We have to be ready to help people who need it in the emergency room, we are the ones who save the day, so we come in to save the day,” Vasquez said.
At the last checkup, Saint Luke’s Health System had 17 COVID-19 patients across their hospitals. For reference, it is up from their lowest point at five patients on the entire system in late April.
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