“I saw patients, I just lined up in the hallway, in the emergency department … Patients in the intensive care unit throughout the hospital,” he told CNN.
And while his help is needed and welcomed, Christensen is candid about how good he really can do.
“When I first came in, I thought it might be a band-aid for arterial bleeding,” he said of his hospitalization in a desert town 110 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
“I want to be more efficient,”
Medics are turning into additional pairs of hands in a hospital that has not yet had to provide care based on equipment or drugs, but where the other living resource, trained staff, is in critical deficit.
“We currently have over 50 patients in the intensive care unit and we only have staff to care for about 20 of them,” said intensive care unit manager Lindsey Packard. “The nurses are pushed to their absolute breaking points. And then every day a little further. “
Packard praised the strength of his fellow nurses, some of whom work 18-hour shifts, get a short break, and then return to the hospital.
But she sees the charge on them, not just from the physical exertion, but the exhausting emotional nature of the work, when they lose so many patients in what appears to be controlled chaos.
The lobby has been converted into a ward for patients with Covid. Moving walls have been placed around the hospital to create care wards in every available space.
Behind the curtains, patients moan and try to catch their breath. Then there is the sound of an uncontrolled cough, then a moment of silence.
The silence is broken by the sounds of emergencies – machines are urgently screaming and flashing lights; rushing sisters; speakers emitting “Code blue! Code blue!” in calls for more help to try to save lives.
These days, too often, these battles are lost.
“In the intensive care unit, we see death and death on a daily basis, but never on such a scale,” Packard said. “The death toll has just come out of this world.”
The crisis is so widespread in the country that there is nowhere else to send patients for care. So National Guard medics were sent – now to 13 state medical centers – to archive staff and fill in the gaps if the workers themselves fell ill.
Dr. Arthur Grigoryan, a critical care specialist, did get coronavirus. He said he had only mild symptoms and returned to work as soon as he was no longer infected. Still, he was out for about two weeks. Now he works almost every day.
“Physical charges, of course, are great, but there are emotional charges,” Grigorian said. “It’s really hard to see patents dying. Mortality has been very, very high.”
Denise Drake says she and her fellow nurses are doing their best to care for patients entering the hospital doors.
“It’s very exhausting, very exhausting,” she said. “We use all the power we have … we all work together, whether we’re on the last string, the last leg, we work together and we do it that way.”
Yet a year after the global pandemic, there are patients who are surprised by the ferocity of the virus, Drake said. She hopes Californians will pay more attention to health experts and follow guidelines to limit the spread.
“It’s real, it’s not going anywhere any time soon.”