Groote Schuur Hospital’s Florence Nightingale speaks of Covid ward ICU
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CAPE TOWN - A nurse working in the intensive care unit in the Covid-19 ward has described losing three patients in the past two weeks, showcasing the reality of the pandemic inside Groote Schuur Hospital.
Lethesa Knight, 52, of Mitchells Plain, who has 19 years of nursing experience, has described the emotional journey and reality of seeing your family after a long shift after having left home at 4am.
Knight works a 12-hour shift, sometimes barely able to take lunch while she strategically monitors each patient and works with five other nurses in a six-bed ward.
Knight tells her story in a bid to encourage people to be safe and adhere to protocols and to take the vaccine.
She details how she protects herself with the standard personal protective equipment.
“From the moment I arrive in the ward work starts. We first ensure that our personal protective equipment is suitable for the shift and do a handover with the night staff,” she said.
“It is critical that we know exactly what treatment we having for the patient and the medication the patient has received and needs to receive.
“For the rest of a typical day, I will continually monitor my patients’ progress. It is sometimes sad to arrive in the morning and the patient you treated the previous day is no longer alive,” said Knight.
“After making sure patients are stable and regularly monitoring, them we have the doctors doing their morning rounds.
“We will give the patients the medication after the rounds. Getting a tea and lunch break is a bonus on most days. If you get an opportunity for it you must take it.
“We normally just have a quick snack and then return to the ward to care for our patients. It is important that we monitor them and make sure we cater for their health-care needs.”
The hardest part of Knight’s career is seeing a patient die after doing everything to ensure they survive and then having to inform the family after being the means of communication via video calls.
“The patients’ needs are my first priority. In these past two weeks, sadly I have lost three of my patients, whom I cared for. Emotionally, this is very draining.
“You spend so much time with the patient. You are also in contact with the family since no visitors are currently allowed. You do video calls with the family.
“When a patient dies when you meet them when they come to say goodbye to the patient in the hospital.
“When the deceased patients leave the ward, you have to sanitise the area and one hour later another patient arrives.
“During Covid-19 our ward is constantly full; one leaves and the next one is waiting to come into the ward. Towards the end of the day you need to prepare for the night-shift team that is coming in from 7pm.
“Make sure all the medication is ready and the treatment is communicated. You are exhausted, hungry and emotionally drained. It has been 12 hours of work, 12 hours of being on your feet all the time.”
She is now appealing to people to take precautions before they land up in an ICU ward.
“All you can think about is to just get home to the family, into a warm bath and rest,” she said.
“But even when I get home at around 8pm I still need to cook and be there for my kids. Then get into bed by 10pm and up again by 4am.
“Although you leave the hospital your mind is still at the hospital. Is my patient going to be okay, will I still see him or her in the morning? You don’t want to be a patient in our ICU. Please protect yourself from being admitted into any ICU and being on a ventilator by practising the safety behaviours we have come to learn over the last year and a half.
“If you are eligible, please consider getting vaccinated against Covid-19 to protect both yourself and others.”