- Aleixandrea Macias is a nurse in Texas whose widely-shared Facebook post about her work treating coronavirus patients is a brutal, heartbreaking read.
- She talks about how futile it can feel to treat victims, so many of whom are dying that it seems like the only way people leave her ICU is “in a body bag.”
- This comes at the same time that the latest numbers show almost half a million cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus have been confirmed in the US.
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If you pay regular attention to President Trump’s latest remarks about the coronavirus crisis and the US response to it, in addition to the insight from experts on the White House coronavirus task force who give daily briefings to the press, you might be letting yourself start to feel a little optimistic about things at this point. Heck, the latest word is that the president and his advisors are starting to take a look at whether it might be time — as soon as May 1 — to ease off on social distancing guidelines in order to begin reopening the country again.
Contrast that, meanwhile, with the reality on the ground for frontline healthcare workers like Aleixandrea Macias, a 24-year-old nurse from Texas who garnered widespread attention in recent days for a long Facebook post she wrote earlier this week that paints a heartbreaking picture of her what healthcare workers like her face on the frontlines of this crisis. Of how devasting it feels for nurses to be engaged in a “game of seeing how long we can keep patients half alive,” and of working in a short-staffed and under-resourced makeshift ICU where no patients have left yet “except in a body bag.” And where the thing that haunts Macias more than anything else is the constant ringing of patients’ cellphones, surely from worried loved ones, that go unanswered because the patients are intubated and not conscious.
“I tried since Thursday to change my perspective and be a ray of light in this dark time, but I just keep being beat down,” Macias writes. “I have never seen anything like this before, never taken care of someone that is so healthy but at the same time so deathly sick.
“I’ve been working in a makeshift ICU for days now because there were no other nurses to staff the area. There are not enough staff even though we get new people daily, not enough experienced staff (because who on earth can be experienced for this level of sick?!), not enough supplies. I can’t count the times I have heard ‘Well, we could try and do this, but we don’t have this.'”
Macias is a mother of four and included an image of herself in tears and with red marks clearly visible on her face from wearing her protective mask. She wrote her post after an 11th day of working in an ICU because there weren’t other nurses to provide staffing for the area. The thing that especially takes a toll is having to watch a steady stream of patients come in, so scared and by themselves. She tries to talk to them, to explain what the COVID-19 coronavirus is and how it’s affecting them and what’s happening. She’s had to listen to the frantic final calls, when the patients speak one last time to loved ones who are worried sick, before they get put on a ventilator.
“These people are not old,” her post continues. “They are young. Many with no medical problems. Strong people, physically fit. One who even worked 5 jobs at a time until Covid ravaged his body.
“This virus kills people. They all die at some point, it’s just been a game of seeing how long we can keep them half alive. I feel like our efforts are futile, but I still try so hard and get so upset because I know that if it were Julio or anyone in my family laying there I would want the same done. When their bodies finally give up fighting, we place them in a body bag.”
Contrast all this, meanwhile, with the declaration from President Trump Friday that he’s already poised to move on to a next phase in the crisis response — assembling a task force to map out a plan for reopening the country. This, as the toll from the virus in the US continues to worsen. The country has now seen about half a million confirmed cases and almost 19,000 deaths, according to the latest numbers from Johns Hopkins University.
“I can’t make you guys do anything, but I am literally begging you to listen to us healthcare workers and take this seriously,” Macias’ post concludes. “My heart hurts so bad tonight for these families who have lost people entirely too soon, for those who are sick and absolutely terrified, and for all of us who will surely have some form of PTSD after this is over.”