WakeMed COVID-19 ICU doctor says some workers near breaking point, pleads for community support

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A COVID-19 intensive care unit doctor at WakeMed says some of his staff members are nearing their breaking point as the hospital fills with more coronavirus patients than they’ve ever seen.

He’s pleading with the community to support the health care workers battling the virus around the clock.

Inside WakeMed’s COVID-19 ICU Dr. David Kirk and his staff work day and night desperately trying to save lives, but they can’t always win against the delta variant.

“To see somebody who is a young parent, to see somebody in the heart of their life to get struck down with this disease with a family around them saying, ‘Why didn’t we believe in this? Why didn’t we get the vaccine?’ It’s incredibly difficult,” said Kirk, WakeMed’s associate chief medical officer.

According to Kirk, WakeMed currently has more COVID-19 patients in the hospital, in intensive care, and on ventilators than at any point in the entire pandemic.

“The other day we lost three patients within a matter of an hour,” he said. “Each time a patient dies we mourn, but when three patients die within an hour, the teams have a difficult time processing that much trauma all at once.”

For some, it is simply too much.

“We lose groups of employees on a regular basis — teams that have worked together for years, they often leave together. They just cannot take it anymore,” Kirk explained.

A year-and-a-half into the pandemic, Kirk said he expects the situation to get even worse before staffers working in the COVID unit see any sign of a slowdown.

“This is going to be the hardest thing that they ever do, and as an ICU leader I think the hardest part of my job is to continue to tell them to stay in this battle,” Kirk said.

That’s why he’s asking the community to support health care workers in any way possible.

“Check in on them,” he urged. “Something as simple as a kind word or a card or a meal (or) helping them with child care.”

“Most people in the hospital right now are working hours and hours and hours of overtime — they are hurting,” he continued. “Anything you can do to help them, as a neighbor, as someone is part of your church, someone who’s part of your family, do it.”

He also asks everyone to do everything possible to stay out of the hospital.

“The easy answer is wear a mask and get vaccinated,” Kirk said. “We are not seeing vaccinated people in our ICU on breathing machines fighting for their lives.”

If you want to know more about how you can support health care workers at WakeMed, click here.

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