Coronavirus nurse reveals horrifying reality of working in ‘the pit’

·3-min read

A haunting video filmed by an American nurse has gone viral after she revealed the grim reality facing the unluckiest coronavirus patients at a hospital where she was brought in to help.

In a Facebook Live video, which amounts to a heartbreaking confession, she described the uphill battle her and other nurses and doctors are facing as the pandemic rages in the US state of Texas.

In the nearly hour-long clip, nurse Lawanna Rivers wiped away tears and described a room at the University Medical Center in El Paso which was dubbed “the pit” – where the worst patients were largely left to their undesirable fate.

“This last assignment was horrific for me,” she began. “I have been debating about whether or not to even talk about it.”

Nurse Lawanna Rivers filmed a haunting 50-minute clip.
Nurse Lawanna Rivers said El Paso's coronavirus crisis is worse than the first wave that devastated New York City. Source: Facebook

“What’s going on in Texas is not being broadcast like they did for New York,” she said.

“The facility I was at, they have surpassed New York, if you can imagine that. What I experienced this past month was horrific.”

She accused the hospital’s doctors of not treating some Covid patients aggressively enough.

“I saw a lot of people die that I felt like shouldn’t have died,” she lamented.

Nurse recalls horrific experiences in ‘the pit’

Ms Rivers said she was assigned to a room ominously called “the pit”.

“In this ‘pit’ was eight patients – all Covid positive,” she said. “On the first day of orientation I was told that whatever patients go into the pit, they only come out in a body bag.”

She described some patients in the part of the hospital as “young”, recalling a 29, 31 and 41-year-old patient, and said those in “the pit” were the “sickest of the sick”.

The visibly distraught nurse said she and the other nurses were instructed to give each patient just three rounds of CPR before they were pronounced dead – significantly less treatment than the usual response.

She recalled phoning her husband crying and telling him “what I’m seeing here is just not right”.

Ms Rivers also claimed she witnessed preferential treatment given to one patient.

“The nurse that orientated me had one patient, she was called the ‘VIP’ patient, she was a doctor’s wife,” she said.

“They pulled out all the stops for that woman... And guess what? She was the one patient that made it out of that ICU alive.”

Texas surpasses 1 million Covid cases

El Paso is among the worst-hit cities in the state of Texas, which last week became the first state in the country to record over a million cases of Covid-19 during the pandemic.

In the El Paso county, local prisoners have been brought in to handle the mounting number of dead bodies as they are stored in temporary morgues in the back of large trucks parked around the hospital.

Since being posted last week, the video by Ms Rivers has been watched more than 177,000 times on Facebook.

“Thanks everyone. I'm just still trying to process everything,” she wrote in response to a flood of comments and well wishes.

Inmates load bodies into a refrigerated temporary morgue.
Inmates load bodies wrapped in plastic into a refrigerated temporary morgue trailer in a parking lot of the El Paso County Medical Examiner's office. Source: Getty

The clip triggered a local media storm with the hospital responding to the nurse’s account.

"After watching the video, while we cannot fully verify the events expressed, we empathise and sympathise with the difficult, physical and emotional toll that this pandemic takes on thousands of healthcare workers here and throughout our country,” it said in a statement to media.

“This particular travel nurse was at UMC briefly to help El Paso confront the surge of Covid-19 patients.”

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