'It's been very traumatic': Exhausted health workers in COVID-19 ICU keep up the fight
Declining COVID-19 case numbers have given many British Columbians hope for the summer. The province has promised if specific targets are met, residents could soon enjoy much more freedom.
But for the professionals working tirelessly inside Surrey Memorial Hospital’s COVID-19 intensive care unit, the fight is far from over.
"I think it'll be pretty overwhelming when you sit and reflect on everything that's gone on because we've seen a lot, it's been very traumatic," says Manjot Kaur, an ICU Nurse. "We have to tough it through because it’s our job and we want to help."
Surrey has been a COVID-19 hotspot for much of the pandemic, meaning inside the hospital it has been a beehive of activity for many months now. Vaccinations are helping bend the curve back down, but with 59 people still in intensive care across the province, medical professional are not ready to relax.
"I'm encouraged but I don't think we can let our guard down," says Dr. Greg Haljan, department head of critical care at Surrey Memorial. "The virus isn't gone, it's still producing variants of concern and from our perspective, we're just trying to stay one step ahead."
“We've been running well above capacity for 15 months, capacity not being ventilators, not beds, not physical space – our capacity is people and our people are tired."
The coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on frontline workers. For many of the people who work in hospitals, it has been a non-stop battle and the workers have had little time to come to terms with the severity of what they’re dealing with. For now, they lean on each other for support.
"We just kind of had to go on autopilot and work and not really deal with our emotions in how we actually feel about everything because we have to wake up the next day and come back,” says Kaur. “So, it's been difficult. No time to really process."
One of the patients the tireless professionals at Surrey Memorial have been caring for is 49-year-old Joseph Trudeau. The father of five has been in hospital for several months, and to make matters worse, his wife Karla Trudeau says shortly before contracting COVID-19, he was also diagnosed with lymphoma.
“My husband got sick so fast,” says Trudeau. I always pray that he will get better for us because we need him. I need him and my kids need him, so it's really hard."
Also in early May, with her husband in hospital, Karla and her five kids were forced out of their home by a fire. While they look for long-term accommodation, they are currently living with a family member.
"It's just unreal, an unreal situation that you think can never happen to you, until it really happens to you,” says Trudeau.
In the meantime, she has a warning for the rest of us who might think this fight is over.
“Don’t take your life for granted. Stay home, they’re telling you that for a reason,” says Trudeau. “Look at my husband, he is super sick. My goodness, open your eyes people – it’s real, it’s real.”