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Pandemic perspectives from the ICU: What the public should know

Critical Care SmartBrief is asking readers to share their COVID-19 experience from the ICU.

5 min read


Pandemic perspectives from the ICU: What the public should know

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Critical Care SmartBrief readers this past week weighed in on the following survey question:

What’s one thing you wish the public knew about your experience with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Their insights and answers:

  • Value of getting the vaccine.
  • The sadness of hearing the despair in the voices of the family who cannot be with their loved one as they die.
  • There are many of us who experienced symptoms before COVID-19 was identified in the US or in our state.  No testing available, so no diagnosis.  One more snide remark like “are you saying you were the first person in XYZ state to have COVID, because it wasn’t here when you got sick…” from other health care people. …  Nope — didn’t say I was the first, just that I had a mystery viro-respiratory illness Feb. 15, 2020, that took my taste, smell, broke/abscessed three teeth and left me with lingering symptoms 13 months later.  I didn’t call it COVID — but every provider who has assessed me has.  Shocking — health care workers and the public believe that we identified the very first infected person who ever entered the United States.  The rhetoric is silencing the objective research and censoring all discussion that is not politically correct.  “We Don’t Know” are the three most under=used words in this pandemic.  They should be the first response to EVERY question from the media.  But everyone is an expert and walking back an opinion (stated as fact) is just a matter of waiting for the news cycle to focus on the next dramatic development.
  • How emotionally difficult it was/is to intubate (young) patients with severe disease  and watch them say goodbye to their loved ones remotely only to die of COVID later.
  • It is really difficult to watch people die, alone, in a hospital without the support of their family. Many of us make an effort to be there to comfort our patients when they are passing on, and the emotional toll of this last year may scar us for the rest of our lives. Please do everything you can to not end up in our ICU’s with COVID-19. This is no fake. This is no political ploy. This is suffering on an unprecedented scale.
  • Understand that care and protection will help reduce risk
  • My fear of dying in my own ICU
  • Isolation
  • Emotionally draining / extreme anxiety during the height of the pandemic with symptoms of panic
  • That their refusal to wear a mask hurts others.
  • The mode of transmission and its mitigation.
  • COVID-19 didn’t care who you were; it mercilessly robbed many of their lives. For me, I felt helpless many days, and will never forget:
    • Seeing a dying patient without their family and feeling an indescribable sadness and sense of hopelessness.
    • Watching a tearful nurse rush to get her PPE on because her confused COVID patient had disconnected himself from the ventilator and she didn’t feel she could move fast enough because oxygen levels were plummeting.
    • Having to explain to my child at the start of the pandemic why his friend can’t play with him when I worked at the hospital the day prior and being told, “I hate that you’re a doctor Mommy!” I just wept.
    • Not having enough beds for an overwhelming volume of patients.
    • Living under inconsistent and reactive leadership.
    • Feeling unintentionally abused by the self-entitled, undisciplined society in which we live. Many just couldn’t not go to a restaurant on New Year’s Eve or wouldn’t stand for a Zoom on Christmas. If we had just thought more about others than ourselves, things might have been different.
  • In the words of John F. Kennedy: “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” Despite this, please know that not only did we ICU providers serve with unwavering dedication and passion that is our calling, but we fought alongside of your loved one every step of the way, even if it traumatized us. Thank you for the honor to serve.
  • COVID-19 is real and can be deadly! Take this virus seriously!
  • That their refusal to wear a mask hurts others.
  • Always wear your mask in public, always social distance, always wash and sanitize your hands, keep your hands away from your face! Always follow CDC recommendations! Avoid all crowds, indoor dining and spaces when possible. Be vigilant at all times! Protect yourself and your family!! Do not take any unnecessary risks . If you are ill, stay home!! Seek medical advice always and follow it!! There are many help lines to ask questions and telemedicine, too!! Use them! Help all your family and friends stay informed! Make the plan and get yourself and family vaccinated! Help everyone get vaccinated! Be kind to yourself and others! Especially children!! Thank you!!
  • The distress it caused all physicians

See this week’s brief for the next survey question and be sure to submit a response.


Kathryn Doherty has been a health editor with SmartBrief for 15 years. She has covered many facets of the health care industry during that time and currently focuses on physicians, health care providers, nutrition and wellness.

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