Amanda Frey, a nurse at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, recently sat down after a long day at work and created a short video clip expressing what it’s like to die with COVID-19: gasping for air, afraid, and beyond comfort.
She offers a bleak and urgent image of near-daily deaths at the hospital, mostly among the unvaccinated. According to Frey, during COVID-19 people die, they go from being OK to actively dying quickly and often without warning. They begin to feel panicked and thirsty for air, which is difficult to control and creates extreme anxiety. She further explained that when COVID-19 patients die, the drugs they generally utilize for people at the end of life don’t help as much. As a result, they see deaths that are not only isolated but also traumatic, per Anchor Daily News.
She made the film at the doctor’s request with whom she works on the medical unit, where the 44-year-old nurse has spent the past 12 years caring for the terminally ill. Moreover, in an interview on Thursday, Frey and fellow nurse Don Lee stated it’s never been like this before. COVID-19 people at the hospital are dying unusually fast, plagued by worry as they realize they are about to die.
Daily Death is an Ugly Reality
These days, it seems like there is constantly someone dying on the floor, according to Frey. On Thursday, a coworker told Lee, a nurse with 22 years of experience that she had lately put someone in a body bag every day she worked. These are members of the community, people with who the nurses are familiar. Both grew up in Alaska’s interior. Meanwhile, they witness patients so unwell from the virus that they deny it exists but finally changes their minds. People who change their minds about obtaining the vaccine are more common, according to Frey.
Fairbanks feels the effects of a statewide outbreak of the virulent delta strain, which has given Alaska the country’s highest new-case rate. New infections in the state continue to rise, despite peaking and dropping across the Lower 48. More than 1,000 new COVID-19 infections were reported on Wednesday, and over 1,200 new infections were recorded on Thursday, along with 14 recent deaths. Thus, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of seven Fairbanks North Star Borough citizens in the last week.
A 70-year-old patient died at Fairbanks Memorial on Thursday, according to the hospital. By Friday, around a third of the 77 patients at the hospital had tested positive for COVID, with ages ranging from an infant to an adult in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. Nevertheless, the hospital changed to crisis standards of care Friday afternoon, citing a serious paucity of resources.
Nurses and Medical Practitioners are doing their Best to Ease the Patients’ Sufferings
Frey notes a serious feeling of breathlessness in her video, which is frightening and common in unwell with the virus. Nurses trying to calm patients who know they won’t be able to breathe administer morphine earlier than usual in end-of-life care, and it doesn’t seem to work as well as it usually does, according to both nurses. They must come up with new ways to relieve their suffering.
Meanwhile, according to Frey, making the film making the film was difficult and took numerous tries because she became overly emotional. Her voice breaks at one point as she recalls families layered with sentiments of rage, anguish, remorse, and regret, nurses sending children up to say goodbye to dying patients and spouses sick with the virus in the same room until one goes home to heal and the other doesn’t.
“What I want you to know about what’s going on in the hospital with COVID-19 is this is not an experience that you want for anyone that you love,” she says before pausing to look at the camera. “Thank you for listening.”
Frey said she made the film to make people pay attention and not take the decision to vaccinate or not vaccinate lightly when they saw it.
Eliminate your Indecisiveness – Take COVID-19 Seriously
On the one hand, Frey hopes that people think about and examine their motivations for their choices and understand that the reality of what Frey and her colleagues see in the hospital is gruesome and preventable. Also, she believes that unvaccinated patients account for 90 percent of the hospitalizations right now. Sadly, something like this could have been avoided.
According to Meghan Festa, a representative for Foundation Health Partners, which manages Fairbanks Memorial, the video was played for the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce and released this week on the hospital’s Facebook page. Blogger Dermot Cole and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner have both written about it.
Frey said she received a text from an old colleague she hadn’t heard from in years on Wednesday. Frey stated, “She told me that her mother-in-law watched the video that I made, and she has a vaccine appointment.” She ended the film saying “So, that’s everything. That’s my hope.”