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Nightmares and tears: Covid-19 has a severe impact on health workers in Colorado

“I guess with all the deaths going on, the fact that I’m so exhausted is that I don’t even have time to process it,” Tapia said. “But then when I sit down with someone and they ask me questions, I just break down because it’s the first time I’ve had to think about it and it’s hard.”

So many of her patients in long-term care facilities have died from the disease, “I got to the point where I stopped counting,” Tapia said.

Gov. Jared Polis, who recently tested positive for coronavirus, said last week that more Coloradans were infected with the virus than at any time since the pandemic began, with about 1 in 41 people in the state positive.

And residents and employees of long-term care facilities, such as those where Tapia works, are particularly vulnerable. They report more than 1
00,000 deaths, or 40% of all Covid-19 deaths in the country by November 24, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“The percentage in our long-term care facilities has risen, deaths have jumped. It is now a different volume and unfortunately much, much worse than before the pandemic,” Tapia said.

Alison Berner, a nurse in Denver, has had nightmares since the beginning of the pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic, Alison Berner, a nurse at Parker Emergency Hospital in the Denver subway area, said her job had never caused her to lose sleep. Now she regularly has nightmares or flashbacks, she said.

“When I close my eyes at night, I see my patients dying, or the family members I had to tell involved that their loved one is no longer here,” Bjorner said. – This is what I see the most.

“I have no other explanation than to live a nightmare,” she said, having to tell relatives that their loved ones had died and could not physically comfort them.

Burner said she also didn’t cry much at work – before the pandemic.

“You’re holding this back. You want to stay firm for the family and stoic,” Bjorner said. “And during Covid, there were a lot of tears shed in the emergency rooms.”

“Because we treat this person who dies as our loved one dies, because they have no one else and they need this grace and they need this human touch and they need someone to be there when they take the last one. breath, ”she said.

The experiences will always be with her, Burner said.

“Death is something no one wants to deal with, but we all have to deal with it. It’s something that is inevitable. And not allowing the family to be with a loved one who is dying is something which you will never forget, “she said.

At the beginning of the pandemic, people were afraid to come to the emergency room because of the virus. Now the number of patients her emergency doctor sees is “astounding,” Bjorner said, and the nurses work overtime.

“Now the fear is gone and everyone has Covid and everyone comes to the emergency room on top of all the other patients we see, and that’s overwhelming the system,” she said.

A doctor who treats the elderly and works as a doctor in a hospice, Tapia said that death is not new to her and she sees in her work ensuring that “people have the best quality of life in line with their values ​​and goals, which may have to this final transition. “

But Covid-19 made it almost impossible because the most important thing at the end of life is to be with loved ones, she said.

“Their families can’t visit or can do it through a screen, or they can get a compassionate visit covered in PP,” or personal protective equipment, Tapia said. “It’s just devastating, loneliness.”

And this after the patients suffered long periods of not seeing their family and friends due to limited visits.

“We had to close and make sure that people could not visit them to protect them, but I don’t know if it protected them because of the loneliness and isolation it caused,” she said.

“And then, because of the mismanagement of this whole pandemic, they’re still getting it, you know? So, that’s fine, so you’re still dying of Kovid and you haven’t been able to see your loved ones. What was the point of this? “

It is clear that the crisis is having a severe impact on both health workers and their colleagues.

Dr. Tapia's new puppy helps her cope.

Burner is torn when he talks about the sacrifices the pandemic takes on the people it works with.

“You know, we’re leaning against each other,” Bjorner said. “The holidays have been difficult for many of us. We don’t see our families; we do everything we can to keep the public safe. So it was extremely frustrating for us when people didn’t do that.”

Tapia said he absolutely sees depression among his colleagues.

“Depression, anxiety, you know, hopelessness, fatigue, burnout,” she said.

Tapia said he is coping by conducting more therapy sessions that have risen “astronomically because of Kovid,” medications and a new puppy.

“Covid has a lot of why I’m on antidepressants and they really, really helped,” she said.

A number of front-line workers have left, according to Tapia.

“The emotional casualties are huge for all front-line workers,” she said.

“So, I think we’re going to get to a point where especially nurses, this country won’t have them, you know, providing the necessary care is going to be a huge problem.”

For those who remain, the problems will not end when the crisis is over, she said.

“I think a lot of people are really trying to take one step after another, to do the next right thing,” she said. “And I think there will be a huge calculation when things calm down and people really start to process what happened to them.”

Anna-Maja Rappard and Jon Passantino contributed to this report.

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