“We’re not overbooked, but there are still too many coming in,” a young nurse says as she arms herself with protective equipment: bonnet, gown, goggles, a fine particle mask and two pairs of gloves over her arms.
The 18A intensive care unit (ICU) at the Klinikum Darmstadt hospital in Germany is the last hope for many patients with severe cases of COVID-19.
“They are getting younger and younger,” nurse Erik tells Reuters on his way to the “farewell room”, where relatives can say goodbye to their loved ones. Medical staff who for days or weeks fought for their patients’ survival are often the ones who close the final doors to the cold storage room.
“There’s not much time to be tired,” nurse Doro says as she hands medication to a doctor. Next door, a colleague is shaving a man hooked up to a ventilator and another prepares a tracheotomy – a cut in a patient’s windpipe to make it easier for him to breathe on his own.
Two floors below, in the emergency room (ER), there is even more activity as senior physician Christine Hidas’ team of about 10 specialists and nurses looks after 50 patients at once.
There is so much work that for five hours nobody gets around to eating the pizza that was delivered in the early afternoon.
Cihan Celik, a senior physician on the hospital’s non-intensive ward, knows many people underestimate the disease. On this day, he explains to a man in his 40s – who says he is fine – that his blood analysis shows he will go through a severe course of the disease.
However, the most striking thing is that none of the staff complain.
And in the meantime, the numbers are getting better. The hospital has treated almost 900 COVID-19 patients since March 2020, nearly a quarter of them in the ICU, and recorded around 60 patient deaths. At the moment, there are 14 in the ICU and nine on the non-intensive ward.
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