St. Louis healthcare workers share experiences on frontline with dying COVID patients


ST. LOUIS – In a year of sacrifice, the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Taskforce said people need to give a little more. They say hospitals are talking crisis care, but also think about what healthcare workers are going through. We heard about heartache from a few of them Friday.

Nurse Brittany Becker said on the COVID floor at St. Luke’s, she’s had the most emotionally draining job acting as family for a dying patient.

“I will never forget one patient with COVID-19 in particular,” Becker said.”Their family couldn’t get there in time to say goodbye, I prayed for them as they passed.”

Respiratory therapist Joseph Kowalczk described patients as young as their mid-30s needing critical care help.

“We’ve had to manually ventilate by hand, patients for long periods of time and I am not exaggerating when sometimes it is an hour or more because even a ventilator cannot get their oxygen levels up,” Kowalczk said.

Intensive care nurse manager Katie Eason said her team is working fast and furiously trying to manage the most people.

She talks about the stress and fatigue of 60 hour work weeks and her team trying to catch up.

“It’s hard,” Eason said. “It’s hard to see your team down when all you want is to see things get better. We’re coming into Christmas and people want to be together with their families, we just need to do better.”

Dr. Alex Garza of the pandemic task force said this is not a political argument about masks, he’s trying to save lives by telling you to wear one.

Garza wanted the public to hear from exhausted staff because within a week or two, at current COVID trends, hospitals will be forced to use the crisis standards of care.

“In short, we have to make choices about who can be helped with limited resources available and we have to make choices of who can’t be helped,” Garza said. “It’s a dilemma no healthcare worker ever wants to face.”

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