Although the world has been more than a year since the pandemic and the United States has a robust vaccine introduction, Michigan nurse Nikki Hillis-Walters says this time it’s worse than when COVID-19 first struck.
Michigan has recorded its highest number of 91,000 new COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks, despite improvements in numbers over the past few days. This is more cases than California and Texas combined in the same period.
Hillis-Walters, who used to work in Windsor, Ontario, said she can feel anxiety build up in herself and her colleagues as patients fall ill over a shorter period of time.
“There’s a little bit of post-traumatic stress coming up for sure, because there was such a feeling of helplessness on the first lap because we didn’t really know what we were dealing with and there were so many people coming with,” he said Hillis-Walters, who works at both Beaumont Health and Henry Ford.
“So when the numbers start to go up, I can only feel with my colleagues and me just that feeling of increased anxiety.”
Beaumont Health, a major Michigan hospital system, recently warned that its hospitals and staff have reached critical skill levels. The number of COVID-19 patients in the eight-hospital system jumped from 128 in February. 28 to more than 800.
According to Hillis-Walters, he really started to see a rise in cases after spring break in late March.
Doctors, medical professionals, and public health officials point to a number of factors to explain how the situation has worsened in Michigan. More contagious variants, most notably the mutation first discovered in the UK, have taken root in the state with higher prevalence than others.
The sufferers include non-Covid-19 cases
Although Hillis-Walters said there is some “peace of mind” knowing that she is vaccinated, she wonders how long the shot will be effective and worries how she will resist the variants.
“I always look on the side of optimism – it’s just me,” he said. “I think we know a little more. I think we are a little better equipped to handle it.”
But COVID-19 cases aside, Hillis-Walters said that for the first time in her 15 years as a nurse, she sees non-COVID patients getting really bad.
“We are seeing people in our ICU who come with diseases not related to COVID, extremely sick because they avoid treatment because they are afraid of the hospital,” he said.
Encourage anyone who is unwell to see a doctor.
Toni Schmittling, an anesthetist nurse who works at Detroit’s Sinai-Grace Hospital, said when the city was hit hard and her hospital had to double ventilator patients in one room, the rest of Michigan wondered why they were necessary restrictions.
I think people outside of our situation don’t understand the depth of what we’re going through, how long we’ve been going through it here in the hospital, and that COVID has never really gone away.– Lizzie Smagala, registered nurse with the Beaumont Royal Oak ICU
“We were like, ‘Are you kidding me? People are dying left and right here,” said Schmittling.
Now, cases are more prevalent and rural areas are being hit hard.
At Sinai-Grace, Beaumont Royal Oak, and other hospitals in the United States, patients are younger than before, between the ages of 30 and 50, but they don’t seem to get as sick.
Dr Mark Hamed, medical director of the emergency department at McKenzie Hospital in Sandusky, Michigan, and for several counties in the northern region of the state, said the area was spared from rampant COVID-19 last year. He said this may have created a false sense of security, especially among farmers and workers in the region who suffered economically from the pandemic and already felt fatigue from COVID-19.
“Companies didn’t really dictate wearing masks,” and many people in the region avoided them anyway, he said.
Now, with the spread of the variants and many people still unvaccinated, his area “has been hit pretty hard,” Hamed said. “Our emergency room is absolutely submerged beyond belief.”
The roller coaster of another wave
The current wave has left medical personnel besieged. Unlike their colleagues in other states, where the virus is relatively under control, Michigan doctors and nurses are facing another crisis.
“We start to gain some hope when the plateau hits and then here we are with another wave,” said Lizzie Smagala, a registered nurse in the Beaumont Royal Oak medical intensive care unit, where masked hospital staff take themselves. care of the sick in a silent and methodical way.
“I think people outside of our situation don’t understand the depth of what we’re going through, how long we’ve been going through here in the hospital, and that COVID has never really gone away.”
At the same time, vaccine hesitation has been a problem in Michigan.
About 40 percent of the state has received at least one dose of the vaccine, about the same as the national average. About 28% of city residents aged 16 and over in Detroit have received at least one stroke. The city plans to go door-to-door to urge people to get vaccinated.
When the vaccinations started, it seemed like “there was light at the end of the tunnel,” Schmittling said. “So what’s going on in Michigan – we’re like the tallest in the nation. What are we doing? What’s happening in Michigan? I wish I had the answers for that.”
Officials are hoping the latest wave of COVID-19 has begun to subside. There were more than 400 COVID-19 patients Thursday morning in six Henry Ford Healthcare System hospitals in the Detroit area, down 10 percent from the start of the week.