A beloved COVID ICU patient turns to comfort care

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Everyone loved Mrs. Maria. She was everyone’s mom, grandma, teacher.

Maria grew up in poverty. Though her family was poor, she knew her parents and siblings loved her and loved each other. But the one thing she knew her passion was at was school. Every morning she couldn’t wait to go to school and learn more. And she knew one day she would be a teacher.

Throughout the years, Maria excelled in school and became the valedictorian of her high school. Her grades and civic participation landed her a scholarship to college. She became that loving teacher. The one we all remember. The one that challenges you to do your best. The one that charged you with energy that you didn’t think you had.

Through the years, she married, had three children, and eventually became a grandmother. Her children and grandchildren loved her. She was their comfort, their love, their wrap-around teddy bear. The neighborhood loved her. The community loved her. And she progressed to a master’s degree and then a doctorate in education.

She led her community as the supervisor of the county schools. COVID hit this community hard. This city. This state. And though Maria wore her masks and encouraged all to wear masks and social distance, the country’s school systems became difficult. Virtual/Zoom courses were created and soon the established school system became riddled with gaps and unsureness on how to continue keeping school open.

Maria came down with a cough. A persistent cough. And then a temperature. And when she became short of breath, she knew. Her family drove her to the hospital. Her oxygen saturation was dropping progressively.

As she entered ICU, the intensivist had a careful talk with one family member and with Maria. They would choose to intubate her. Ventilator, central line, arterial line, then came the Levophed and vasopressin drips for her blood pressure that kept dropping. Every day, every hour was a new evaluation of her oxygenation. Her O2 would vary. One day was good; we’re gonna make it. The next day was horrid. FiO2 increased, Ativan and morphine added. Wrist restraints to avoid potential extubation.

And the nurses came in, gowned, gloved, face masks and face shields. Turning and repositioning Maria … and all of the other COVID patients.

The nurses knew. They knew it was a matter of time.

When they had to prone Maria, they knew it was a last-ditch effort. Her kidneys were failing. Dialysis was started. And Covid ravaged her body. Her organs, one by one, shutting down. Lungs, kidneys, brain bleeds …. gasping, asynchronous with the ventilator … and Maria could not be helped, no matter what we did.

We also loved Maria. We have loved them all. They are not a number. They are a person, a mom, a dad, a sister, a brother, a grandmother, or a grandfather.

The neighborhood showed up at Maria’s house. Candles lit. Showing their love and respect for a great leader. A great mother and grandmother to all. A great teacher. A great doctor of education.

The nurses gathered around Maria as the ventilator was pulled. The family via video said their goodbyes.

“We love you, grandma.”

“We love you, momma.”

Comfort care. Occasional morphine for pain. And we held Dr. Maria’s hand with our latex gloves on. Masked and faceless … but our hearts were there. Melting. Tears.

Fly high, our angel.

Fly high.

Debbie Moore-Black is a nurse who blogs at Do Not Resuscitate.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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