‘I feel heartbreak and anger’: Kirkland nurse describes toll of pandemic over last year

Sep 19, 2021, 7:28 AM | Updated: Sep 20, 2021, 6:53 am
coronavirus, Kirkland nurse...
Kirkland's Evergreen Health facility. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

As hospitals are continuing to deal with an increase in COVID-19 patients, health care workers are speaking out on the struggles they’ve encountered in recent months, and over the course of the entire pandemic.

That includes Evergreen Health nurse Jenna Loney, who spoke to KIRO Radio’s Gee & Ursula Show to describe her own experience.

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In mid-August, COVID-related hospitalizations were reported to be the highest they’ve ever been in Washington, straining many facilities to the limit. Those numbers have largely plateaued in recent weeks, but while Evergreen is “not filled to the brim” at the moment, it hasn’t made the last few months any less exhausting.

“Back in April, I was not doing well — I was having panic attacks,” Jenna described. “I was just feeling so heavy and burnt out.”

That’s been driven by a few factors, but perhaps most prominent is the fact that a vast majority of COVID patients who end up in a hospital bed are unvaccinated. Given the wide availability of vaccines, it becomes an emotional strain for the families of the patients and the health care workers treating them.

“I feel a combination of heartbreak and anger,” Jenna noted. “Heartbreak because it’s just so sad to watch this unfold when it could have been prevented, and it’s also angering because I feel like that weight of their suffering falls on my shoulders.”

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Others have expressed similar sentiments, spanning hospitals across the entire state. That includes one account from Spokane reporter Robyn Nance, who recently spoke to a nurse about how many hospital workers continue to feel “exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally.”

In some counties, hospitals are even being forced to delay care for patients suffering from strokes and appendicitis, among other conditions.

“If you come in with a stroke, if you come in with a cardiac event, there is not a bed out there for you,” Kittitas Valley Healthcare CEO Julie Petersen said in an early-September briefing. “And if there is a bed, you might be waiting for an ambulance.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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‘I feel heartbreak and anger’: Kirkland nurse describes toll of pandemic over last year