'Truly terrible': Nurse's harrowing story of dad fighting Covid in hospital

Ash Cant
·5-min read

A nurse has written a stunning tribute, highlighting what it is like working on the frontline during a pandemic, while her coworkers look after her sick father.

Intensive Care Unit nurse, Bridget Otto, has been treating Covid patients at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

In September, Ms Otto’s father, Dwight Doughan, had experienced symptoms.

On Facebook she explained she received a phone call from her parents on September 19, saying her father had been symptomatic for a few days but his symptoms had worsened.

Ms Otto advised her parents to go to the emergency department. There, her “greatest fears” were confirmed as both her parents tested positive.

“They were both positive and soon we would learn that 10 other family members would test positive for Covid also,” Ms Otto explained.

Bridget Otto, left, an ICU nurse has made a heartfelt plea on Facebook, after her own father, Dwight Doughan, was cared for at her hospital. Source: Good Morning America
Bridget Otto, an ICU nurse has made a heartfelt plea on Facebook, after her own father Dwight Doughan was cared for at her hospital. Source: Good Morning America

Her father had no previous health conditions, yet he experienced severe symptoms and was eventually taken to hospital in an ambulance.

He remained in hospital for two weeks, his health deteriorating, and then eventually flown to the hospital where Ms Otto works.

"I was terrified because I had been watching this at the bedsides in the ICU since March," Ms Otto told Good Morning America, though she was relieved her father would be getting treatment at one of the best hospitals in Iowa.

At work every day, Ms Otto watched her father while she worked.

“While watching my dad fight for his life while chemically sedated, paralysed and proned (lying on his stomach) on a ventilator on one side of my unit,” she wrote on Facebook.

“I took care of other patients that were fighting a nearly identical battle. All of them were younger, some even half his age. In 4 weeks, nearly all of them died.

“In 4 weeks, I focused my energy on the grief and sadness of others while simultaneously burying my own feelings of anticipatory grief.”

Lessons learned from having a parent in hospital

Ms Otto watched as her co-workers cared for Mr Doughan, saying the ICU where she worked provided “superior care”.

“I watched my co-workers go above and beyond taking care of my dad, checking in on my family and me, shaving his beard, taking him to the OR to get a tracheostomy, calling us in the middle of the night when he had close calls with death, and celebrating the days when he slowly made improvements,” she said.

Having watched how her peers treated her father, Ms Otto says her bedside practices are “forever changed” - vowing to try call loved ones, even if it’s in her own lunch break and there’s no update, because now she knows what it’s like to be on the other end of that phone.

“I will try to pay it forward to my patients and their loved ones,” she said.

Good Morning America reported Mr Doughan is now recovering at a rehab facility, incidentally where his other daughter works.

“He still has his tracheostomy with high flow/high concentration oxygen, struggles with his memory, and has a ceiling lift to the chair due to severe muscle loss and weakness,” Ms Otto said.

“He has been given a second chance and the ability to regain what Covid has taken from him.”

Dwight Doughan tested positive for Covid-19 in September and is now recovering. Source: Facebook
Dwight Doughan tested positive for Covid-19 in September and is now recovering. Source: Facebook

Plea to the public ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday

Ms Otto says she tries to remind herself the general public have not seen what she has since March, nor could they comprehend how “truly terrible” it is, but she has a stern message for those being selfish.

“For some reason mask wearing and caring about the health of others has been politicised. But when it comes down to it, that’s selfish,” she said.

“If you cannot wear a mask in public and avoid large gatherings, it’s a selfish choice.

“You no longer get to think “it’s just a cold” anymore. When in doubt, get swabbed and stay away from others. Believe me, us in health care have been dealing with this since March and we want this to be over just as much as you do.”

Bridget Otto says the Covid-19 pandemic is unlike anything she has seen in the years she has been a nurse. Source: Good Morning America
Bridget Otto says the Covid-19 pandemic is unlike anything she has seen in the years she has been a nurse. Source: Good Morning America

She explained healthcare workers were asked to not participate in the upcoming holiday festivities, and urged others to do the same.

“If this seems desperate, it’s because it is,” she said.

“We don’t need memes about being heroes, we need you to listen to science and those of us that watch the suffering that occurs. We appreciate the thoughts and prayers, but we need action also.”

Ms Otto’s post has been shared over 1600 times since it was posted earlier in November.

According to Johns Hopkins data, there have been over 12 million confirmed infections in the US and more than 250,000 deaths. The seven-day rolling average number of US Covid-19 deaths climbed for a 12th straight day, reaching 1500 as of Monday.

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