ICU nurse describes work on the COVID-19 frontlines

ICU Nurse Brandie Kopsas Kingsley (WTHR photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Health care workers are on the frontlines of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brandie Kopsas Kingsley, an ICU nurse, shared with us what she has been seeing IN her work at IU Health.

We asked first about word that people have been showing up at University Hospital believing there is an emergency room at the facility when that's not the case.

"No, that's correct. We do not have an emergency department at University Hospital. We address their needs and if they are not in medical distress and they just have questions about COPD screening, we can screen them or usually we give them instructions to using the virtual clinic. If they are in medical distress, we dispatch our rapid response nurses and our team and they come down, they assess the patient, they triage them, and we can get them safely to Methodist emergency department via ambulance," Kingsley said.

We asked Kingsley about what she had seen while working in the ICU at IU Health West in Avon.

"A lot of really sick patients, a lot of medical staff coming together using staffing ratios and tools that we've never done before, but we need to use now to maximize the opportunity to get all these patients the care they need. A lot of these patients are young, they're my age, I'm in my 30s to mid 50s. A lot of the news in the right now is it's all elderly patients, it's not all elderly patients. These are young people that have young families, and they're in the intensive care unit," Kingsley said.

"They could just arrive short of breath and literally within an hour could go from what we call room air to needing supplemental oxygen to now being on life support. They're taking extreme amounts of ventilator support, even more than I used to see. It's like that some of the highest event settings I've ever seen. They're taking tons of sedation to keep them in sync with the breathing machine, lots of what we call pressure support so they're unable to maintain their own blood pressure so now we're putting them on medication to even keep their blood pressure up, to keep blood going to all their vital organs. Some are having very high temperatures and the whole body is just ravaged. It's not just they, they're not breathing, sometimes their kidneys now aren't functioning and they don't recover quickly," she said.

"You're wearing all this gear and you're sweating, and you're doing all this stuff in a closed room and you've got to make sure your anxiety doesn't get the better of you, and you've got to do everything you can," said Kingsley.

We asked Kingsley what she's currently worrying about.

"I'm worried about the surge, keeping up with the evidence and all the statistics," she said. "It shows that this is just gonna keep climbing here. I'm worried about people not taking the quarantine seriously. I've got two little kids that should be in school, so I get it, it's hard, but there are ways to get outside in nature and still social distance," Kingsley said.

We asked Kingsley if she's feeling overwhelmed already.

"I feel like the anticipation is overwhelming," said Kingsley. "I feel like anxiety can lead you to being overwhelmed. As health care providers, we constantly learn, we want to do better constantly, but the amount of information coming in right now is overwhelming and just the fear of 'what if I bring this home?'"