A Melbourne nurse has shared a blunt social media post detailing the sobering reality of a day in the life of a nurse during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jemma Hilliard’s now viral post shared the daily struggle healthcare workers have been faced with for the past six months. In a fiery message, the nurse described the situation now as “actually worse” than when the pandemic was first declared.
The “furious” nurse invited Victorians flouting the rules during lockdown to step into her shoes for a day to experience the effect the latest wave of coronavirus cases was having on hospitals in the state.
“Do you want to know what you’re doing? Other than being the main cause for a spike in infectious cases that we see on the news every day?
“You are screwing up health care, the economy and physically, psychologically and emotionally depleting the sick, the vulnerable and EVERYONE who works in a hospital,” Ms Hilliard wrote in a more than 1,460-word post.
Starting her day at 6:45am, Ms Hilliard said she is so anxious that she is never sure which day it is.
“Despite the fact we’re exhausted, we can’t sleep. So my resting heart rate is sitting at about 120 because I am already stressed about the day ahead,” she continued.
Wearing a mask for up to 10 hours a day takes its toll physically on healthcare workers who have had to resort to using cardboard clipped to their masks to avoid painful blisters.
“Unlike most of you, we’ve been wearing masks for 8-10 hours a day for months now and we’re trying to let the blisters behind our ears heal or prevent more from developing,” she explained.
As of Saturday, there were 313 healthcare workers in Victoria to test positive for COVID-19.
When the nurse arrives at work at 8am she must first pass security to get through the locked doors and her phone begins to buzz as she has her temperature checked.
“My phone is already ringing with referrals for me to see,” she wrote.
Ms Hilliard’s post goes on to explain that an elderly patient who is dying is only able to be visited by two family members due to restrictions on visitors.
At 9:30am the nurse tends to younger patients where she is confronted by “multiple children lying on mattresses on the floor”.
“They're dying, not from COVID. And I only have the chance to make sure they are comfortable and settled. I don’t have the chance and then I lose the opportunity to ever find out, who is going to be caring for the two children who are not yet of age, because they died,” she wrote.
The non-stop day continues with Ms Hilliard attempting to convince a cancer patient to stay in hospital, instead the patient chooses to leave so they can be with their family.
“They are going to discharge against medical advice because they cannot handle being away from their family. Their cancer is crushing their spine and I knew I was watching this person go home to likely become a paraplegic before they die”.
‘They can’t fly home, ever’
In the detailed post that outlined her day, the nurse went on to describe the heartbreaking reality of a non-english speaking patient, who due to travel restrictions, cannot fly home.
“I am with my next patient who came to Australia before we closed the borders and became sick. Really sick. Their insurance lapsed. They can’t fly home. Ever.
“They have cancer but they don't really know that because they doesn’t speak a word of English and it’s a miracle if we can get an interpreter,” Ms Hilliard wrote.
When the usual visiting time begins she often has the difficult job of explaining to family and loved ones that they can no longer visit patients due to the rise in coronavirus.
“I start getting distressed calls from families begging me to let them in somehow. And I can’t,” she lamented.
As the afternoon hits, the nurse has to put on her protective clothing and attend to a patient who has just died, while also trying to console his wife by video call.
“I can’t see her because everything has fogged up – and she can clearly see that. And all I am to her was the voice that held up the screen for her to say goodbye”.
When it comes to treating dementia patients Ms Hilliard struggles to get them to eat.
“Because scared dementia patients don’t take food off people covered in masks where you can’t see their faces.
“When we thought they were dying, we let their partner spend time with them in hospital. If it wasn’t for the partner being there, the patient recognising that familiar face and providing food, they would be dead,” she said.
‘My mask is damp from the tears’
At 5pm Ms Hilliard finds time to use the bathroom for the first time that day. She begins her paperwork and corresponds with worried family members about their dying relatives in the hospital.
“I’m also emailing letters to family members in case the police stop them from visiting the hospital to see their dying relative. Because that’s a thing now,” she wrote.
When she finally leaves the hospital, Ms Hilliard detailed the confronting drive home.
“The drive home is quiet because my ears are ringing. I have to throw away the mask when I get home because it’s damp from the tears that have silently fell on the journey home,” she said.
Once she arrives home, the exhausted nurse is too tired to cook herself dinner, saying she feels isolated from family and friends due to her stressful day-to-day reality.
“I want for someone to tell me this nightmare is over. This is not the job I am used to doing. This is not the care we are wanting to provide,” the nurse wrote, in a post that has now been shared more than 10,000 times on Facebook.
‘Not an invisible disease’
Ms Hilliard explains the struggle to place her elderly father, who falls daily, into care. Due to someone in the nursing home experiencing a positive COVID-19 test, the move is put on hold. She’s worried her father will die alone.
Ending the post, the frustrated nurse takes aim at Victorians who believe COVID-19 isn’t serious and refuse to wear masks.
“I also absolutely do not care if you feel that this is an ‘invisible’ disease, apparently made up by the government in order to gain control.
“Aren’t you a lucky bunch who live in a naive world where you can think it’s fake. I can assure you, it’s not.
“And finally, COVID isn’t polite enough to step back and not infect you because you want to speak to someone in person or on the phone and you ‘simply can’t deal with simultaneously wearing a mask’. Man. The. F**k. Up.
“This is not about COVID-19 the virus, this is about COVID-19 the pandemic. It’s you, the dumb, selfish Victorians who are actually killing us.”
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