Cape Coral Hospital COVID-19 ICU: ‘My patients are my why’

Reporter: Sydney Persing Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
ICU nurse supervisor Theresa King at Cape Coral Hospital wears a shirt that says “My patients are my why.” Credit: WINK News.

We continue to report on the stories of health professionals at Cape Coral Hospital’s COVID-19 intensive care unit. They gave us an inside look at the front line of the pandemic.

They explained to us their unit is no place any patient wants to find themselves. But once patients are there, the staff members at the ICU are dedicated to them — many times until the very end.

“It says my patients are my why,” said ICU nurse supervisor Theresa King, as she pointed to the shirt she was wearing. “This is why I do what I’m doing, why I’m here, why we keep fighting and why we keep coming into work every day and trying to make a difference.”

The health professionals here get to know every person that’s wheeled into their ICU even when they’re intubated and unconscious.

King learns their stories during phone calls with parents, children, husbands and wives.

“It sticks with you because they’re us. They’re our age. They’re fathers and mothers. We lost a father with four children and one on the way. It’s difficult because they all stick out because they’re … all of us. We’re having conversations that are horrifyingly bad. You never want to tell a family member on the phone, ‘I’m sorry, your loved one is dying; you need to come.’ But we’re making these kinds of conversations to two or three members at least a shift, and it’s difficult.”

Because King and her team see those patients — fiancés, teachers, moms and dads every day — they rest their heads on their pillows. They breath the air on their machines, and in the blink of an eye or with the turn of the back, another one of those people are gone.

“That’s what’s hard for us right now,” ICU nurse Monique Bradley said.

It happens so quick. A body is emptied from a bed, and the end of life is marked with the stroke of a pen and the click of a button.

But doctors and nurses in this ICU will tell you it is easy: Get the vaccine.

“The risk of very minimal side effects versus what we’re seeing, to me, it’s not decision,” said Dr. Jordan Taillon, a pulmonologist and critical care specialist.

Taillon told us he’s not in the business of medical ethics. Other people decide whether to mandate vaccines. But from his bird’s eye view of his ICU, getting the shot is something he thinks you should want to do.

“Some of these, you know, stories about younger people being on the ventilator and dying,’ Taillon said. “That’s another one that stuck with me, intubating someone who was right around my age, and he was not obese, did not have comorbidities, fairly healthy person, lifted weights and ended up intubated and passing.”

Each of Taillon’s COVID-19 patient rooms are marked with a heart. The day we covered this story, there were 25 COVID-19 patients in the ICU.

We asked how many of those people were vaccinated.

“None of them are. None of them,” King said.

As patients died, King and Taillon and their team made way for more people.

“I know what I know. I know what I see,” King said. “Unfortunately, I really hope those people who don’t believe it don’t have to experience this at all.”

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