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‘People knew it was coming’: Novant ICU nurse shares experience as COVID-19 cases rise

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 11:43 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - As the Delta variant spreads across North Carolina, hospitalizations of people contracting COVID-19 are going up.

As of Tuesday, 1,359 covid patients are hospitalized state-wide, which is up to more than 300 people since this time last week.

According to NCDHHS, 92 percent of cases and 94 percent of deaths are people who are not fully vaccinated.

WBTV’s Caroline Hicks spoke with Novant Health ICU nurse Joyce Thomas in May of 2020.

At that time she said she was hopeful with the promise that vaccines would arrive by the end of the year.

Now that the Delta variant is spreading, she says more and more patients with COVID-19 are arriving in the ICU.

WBTV got an inside look in the ICU at the start of her 7 pm to 7 am shift.

“We have three [COVID-19 patients] on the unit, but for a couple of months we didn’t have any in the ICU,” Thomas said. “Then all of a sudden a month ago, a month a half ago we started to see one come in, two come in. They’re coming.”

Thomas says it did not come as a surprise that the virus is mutating.

“People knew it was coming,” she said. “I don’t know if we knew the degree of the severity of it, but everybody knew that it was going to mutate.”

As it mutates, more patients are coming in, requiring nurses to return to the days of putting on heavy protective equipment.

Thomas says it can be frustrating to see patients with COVID-19 fighting for their lives when a vaccine could have protected them.

“Yes, that part is frustrating,” she said. “There are younger patients - 30s, mid, 40s, 50s.”

She says the patients seem to keep getting younger and they are ending up on ventilators and dialysis.

When Thomas finishes long shifts at the ICU, her home life is also busy.

She welcomed her first baby, a son named Noah, at the beginning of the year.

“I’m excited,” she said. “Even during the pandemic, a gift. But, it’s hard. With sicker patients sometimes you don’t get out on time. By the time I get home I have to unwind, and play with my son because he’s excited to see his mom.”

Amidst the sounds of monitors and machines in the ICU, you also hear teamwork.

Thomas says the comradery in the ICU makes hard days easier.

“I’ve been doing this for 11 years, this is what I love to do,” she said. “My faith allows me to believe that there is a season for everything, a season to laugh, a season to cry, a season to rejoice.”

According to Novant Health, right now 90 percent of hospitalizations for Covid-19 are people who are unvaccinated.

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