A critical care nurse who is fighting coronavirus on the frontlines has opened up about the heartbreak of watching families say goodbye to their loved ones on iPads while putting her own life at risk to treat her patients because of the PPE shortage.
Jenna Greco, an RN at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Forest Hills, New York, shared her experience in a video published by the New York Post, saying she has to make an effort to keep her emotions in check at work.
‘It’s almost like you have to be robotic with it and not let it hit you,’ she said. ‘Because you have to focus on the fact that now you’re getting another sick patient, and that one’s just another number.’
Candid: Jenna Greco, an RN at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Forest Hills, New York, has opened up about being on the frontlines during the coronavirus pandemic
Greco, who became an RN three years ago, said she has days where she breaks down in tears and others where she can tough it out.
There is also the added stress of not having enough PPE, revealing that she has had to use the same face mask for seven shifts straight.
‘It gets gross. It’s not effective after a certain amount of time,’ she said, adding: ‘I don’t really let it get to me too much because I know it’s affecting just everybody all around.
Greco explained that ‘every moment is critical’ in the hospital’s intensive care unit because COVID-19 patient’s ‘vital signs change like that.’
Saying goodbye: Greco said the hospital she works at (pictured) has designated iPads for each unit so families can FaceTime their loved ones who are in intensive care
Hard to handle: The nurse said she has to keep her emotions in check at work and become almost ‘robotic’ because there are so many COVID-19 patients to care for
‘You have to anticipate what’s the next move,’ she said. ‘What decision I’m going to make? What can I do to help this person or save this person?’
One of the most heart-wrenching parts of her job is dealing with families who can’t be with their sick loved ones. To help relieve the burden, the hospital has a specific iPad designated to each unit, and a nurse will go around to each patient and FaceTime their families for them.
Greco recalled one ‘severely ill’ patient’s family proactively calling the hospital to FaceTime with him daily during the few weeks he was in the ICU.
She said one day they called and ‘everything was fine,’ but the next was entirely different. This time, they had 15 family members on the call ‘so they could see him and talk to him and say prayers.’
Risking her life: Greco (pictured before the global crisis) admitted that she has had to use the same face mask for seven shifts straight because of the PPE shortage
Greco recounted them staying on the video call for two hours, and while they wanted her in the room with them, she had two other patients she had to check on.
‘It’s hard for me to leave, but I did quite a few times,’ she explained. ‘I kept coming back and they were still on the call, still on the call.’
She was in another patient’s room when she heard alarms going off and saw her colleagues running to the patient’s bed. When she looked at the vital signs, she saw that his heart had stopped.
‘He was able to die in peace right after that phone call,’ she said. ‘I don’t think that was a coincidence. I think that happened. He heard his family, they all talked to him, and he said, “This my time I can go now.”‘
Dedicated: Greco said she doesn’t ‘think of it as being on the frontlines’ when she goes to work each day
Hero: ‘It’s difficult, but it’s also rewarding knowing that we are saving so many lives,’ she said
She recounted standing over his hospital bed and thinking he had just talked to his family minutes ago and now he was dead.
‘It’s sad and it’s so scary how that could happen, and it does hurt,’ she said. ‘I can’t imagine how the family feels.’
Greco said she doesn’t ‘think of it as being on the frontlines’ when she goes to work each day.
‘It’s difficult, but it’s also rewarding knowing that we are saving so many lives,’ she said. ‘A thousand patients have already been discharged from my hospital and the amount of admissions for COVID is decreasing.’
Stats: As of Wednesday, there are more than 257,200 confirmed coronavirus cases in New York state and over 15,300 deaths