The Arizona ER Nurse Watching COVID-Denying Pols Get the Vaccine First
Photo illustration from The Daily Beast / Photo Handout
Thirteen patients who arrived at the emergency room at Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix last Friday had to be intubated but there was no room for them in the intensive care unit.
And there was one more patient than had ventilators on hand in the post-Thanksgiving wave. The ER nurses had to keep the patient breathing by manually squeezing an AmbuBag for two hours before they could get a ventilator from the ICU.
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"That didn't work," a nurse, who asked to be identified by her first name, Nicole, told The Daily Beast. "Then we have one that worked."
There were still no beds in the intensive care unit as more and more COVID-19 patients came to this Arizona emergency room.
"We routinely keep ICU patients in the emergency room for more than 12 hours," said Nicole. "People are all very sick and we have a lot of codes or respiratory arrests, sometimes every hour."
On another day last week, there were six respiratory and cardiac arrests before 6 a.m. At 8:30 a.m. there were four more.
"Sometimes really bad days," said Nicole.
And at some point the nurses ran out of body bags.
"The county brought us straight away," remarked Nicole.
In the meantime the hospital morgue ran out of space. The dead got into a refrigerator trailer.
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And it all came in a week that should have brought Nicole and her fellow sisters a first glimmer of hope in a seemingly endless horror. Maricopa County and Banner had received the first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine. Nicole had completed an online pre-screening survey on Wednesday, December 16.
"Your submission has been received and you have confirmed that you can get a vaccination at this stage," the confirmation said. “Eligible participants are prioritized based on their exposure and risk. Those with the highest prioritized exposure risk (i.e. healthcare workers who have direct contact with COVID-19 patients) will be the first to receive instructions [email or text message] to schedule a vaccine appointment. E-mails are sent regularly as soon as appointments are available or in the order of their priority. If you are not contacted immediately, please be patient. "
Banner proclaimed in a December 17 press release that an ICU nurse was the first to be vaccinated and that 165 more healthcare workers would follow suit. Many more will follow shortly.
But until that Friday, none of the emergency room nurses could get an appointment.
"We were so excited that now is a light," Nicole told The Daily Beast. "Then it's really sad not even getting an appointment. It makes you feel like they don't care about you."
Nicole called the hospital personnel office and Maricopa County Health Department.
"They both said just be patient since we're all together," Nicole recalled. "I said," We're not all together. You don't work with COVID patients all day every day. You are in an office. "
Nicole was advised by the hospital's human resources department that she would receive the vaccine by January 31st. For her, this could mean working with COVID-19 patients for weeks every day. She couldn't hope for immunity until more than three weeks after the first shot. It would almost certainly be in a post-Christmas upswing in the meantime.
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