"It was hard working through it. I cried a couple of times. But you go home, take a shower, and you don’t talk about it," says Wilson Ekinde, pictured here. Credit: Wilson Ekinde

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Wilson Ekinde, 59, registered nurse at St. John’s Hospital, medical surge unit. 

Today, we had about eight COVID patients in my unit. There are times when we have as many as 17 COVID patients. This is out of 31 patients in the unit. 

The age range of COVID patients has been younger. The patients we get now are mostly 30s, 40s, and 50s. Recently we had a 21-year-old and pregnant patient. When COVID started, patients were mostly 65 and up.

It’s been hard. We see cases where they come to the hospital unvaccinated, and once they get here they want to get vaccinated, when they’re feeling the heat. We have to advise them to get vaccinated maybe in 90 days when you’re feeling much better. 

When Delta was dominant, the patients were very sick. We were running out of steam as careworkers. You’re in the room for four to five hours just trying to get the patient’s oxygen level to go up. You tell them to lie prone, then telling them to sit up, call for oxygen, wait for the doctor. 

Now, the patients are sick, but not as sick as during Delta. Most of the nurses are assigned four patients. During Delta, most of the nurses were caring for three patients, sometimes two patients, because we’d spend a lot of time with the patient just trying to get them to breathe. 

There had to be more nurses on the floor then, and we had a shortage. It’s not like the hospital can just manufacture more workers. People were calling in sick because they were burnt out. We lost a number of nurses. Some went to other fields, others changed jobs to a clinic, some went to outpatient, some went to working triage. Now, at least, more nurses are picking up more hours.

It was hard working through it. I cried a couple of times. But you go home, take a shower, and you don’t talk about it. Especially with my kids. My wife is a nurse, too, and she has her own stories about COVID from where she works. You try not to talk about it much, because you just get burnt out. 

There was a point where we all had COVID in the summer, and we were all vaccinated. I got very sick. I stayed in my basement. For two nights I slept on my knees, bent over with my head down. This was to help me breathe, because I knew what to do. I tried not to go to the hospital. When you work at the hospital, you see the need. Especially when you have people who are on chemotherapy, they come to the hospital, and there’s no beds.

On my unit, we created a holding area where we can hold patients. These are things that never existed before. That room used to be where staff met and did a huddle. Now we do a huddle in the hallway. There’s nothing the hospital can do about this, because the hospital has to care for the community. 

We have a lot more knowledge about the virus now than before. Now the nurses, they are more armed to face the devil. When this all started, we used to have to write our names on our N95s. Now we have enough PPE. All you have to do is snap your fingers, and the PPE comes to the floor. 

Joey Peters

Joey Peters is a reporter for Sahan Journal. His work has appeared in Reuters, Public Radio International, Columbia Journalism Review, KFAI Radio, the Pioneer Press, City Pages, MinnPost and more. He previously...