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Arizona ICU nurse shares what it's like to fight COVID-19

Posted at 6:41 PM, Jun 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-23 22:28:29-04

PHOENIX — An Arizona nurse who works within the intensive care unit at Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix said in a video blog that her hospital is filling up and that the next few weeks could be tough.

“We are at capacity and looking forward at the next few weeks, it’s kind of scary and daunting,” said Melody Nungaray-Ortiz in the video.

She is sharing her experience of what it's like on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Arizona has seen an uptick in positive COVID-19 cases in recent days and weeks.

“You feel the emotion of it every single day. You feel the stress of it every single day. That means the instant you walk into the hospital, you know, you’re probably going to be short-staffed and you don’t know how many people you're going to get,” she said.

Nungaray-Ortiz she said works with a team that puts COVID-19 patients on Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, machines, also referred to an ECMO.

The machine acts as an outside lung and takes blood from the body, removes the carbon dioxide, and sends oxygen-filled blood back to the body.

It is considered to be a last resort for those hardest hit by the coronavirus, a treatment that 50% survive.

“We are on unstable ground. We are doing everything that we can to run on bare bones so that we can have enough nurses for that oncoming patient,” she said.

As of Sunday, June 21, Banner Health said it has 584 patients with COVID-19 spread among its 15 locations. Banner's University Medical Center has 111 of those 584 patients, 30 of whom are on ventilators.

“All of our beds are full. Additional emergency rooms are being opened,” said Nungaray-Ortiz.

In order to take care of the influx of patients and the extensive care they need, nurses and support staff are being brought in from other places, including New York.

“God, you see the fortitude in them and you want to emulate that,” she said. But, eventually, these folks go home. Their families waiting. Emotionally drained. They push on the best they can.

“I can’t show my kids how sad or scared I feel sometimes. I can’t share with them my stories. I have to not let that show,” she said.

Despite those efforts, she said her oldest son came to her the other day after watching the news.

“He broke down crying and I asked him what’s going on? He point-blank said, "mom I don’t want you to die'" she said.

That's why she is now begging the community to act responsibly by wearing a mask and keeping their distance from others, an action that could be the difference for so many.

“Do we know if we’re gonna have enough hands to save everybody? I don’t know. Are we gonna have enough dialysis machines for everybody? I don’t know. There’s a lot of unpredictable factors that we haven’t been able to problem solve because there’s no one way of nailing them down," she said.