Healthcare workers are at the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those living and working in Rogers County are issuing heartfelt pleas to their community.

“You want to know how it impacts nursing? We are scared...we are terrified....but not for ourselves. We are terrified of bringing this home to our families. We are terrified of getting it and having to be put on the bench for two weeks and leave our peers/our work family shorter staffed and exhausted. We are terrified that we will have to choose between who lives and who dies. We are terrified because we go to work everyday and save lives and there may be nothing in our training to help us fix the sickness this time,” said emergency room nurse Katie Rice.

She said she was preparing to leave for a work shift earlier this week.

“I saw my mom yesterday before I went to work because I had something for her and right before she left she hugged me because I came to realize that that would be the last time I get to hug my mom until this is over because I refuse to expose my family to the chance of contracting the virus,” Rice recalled. “We are terrified because the young population that could easily and will probably recover are the ones that need to be isolating themselves and yet they are not taking this seriously. We feel like we have been drafted into war because the nation’s best chance lies with us. We are terrified but meet this the same way we meet every shift—united, courageous, humbled, and praying for the best.”

Rice said she’s been a nurse for eight years, has spent four of them in ER/trauma and she’s never seen anything like this.

“This has the potential to be just as crippling to us as it has been to Italy, we are short staffed in America as it is for nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, and other badly needed medical professionals,” she said.

When asked if she had a message for the general public, Rice didn’t hesitate.

“Unless you start taking this seriously—not in a panic/hysteria way— just believe a nurse living in the trenches of reality,this is happening. COVID-19 is a very real threat and we’ve not even gotten close to seeing the proverbial ice berg yet. I’m not trying to scare you or intimidate you or get you to pick a political party, I just want you to know the reality of what’s coming if steps aren’t taken now to give yourself and your loved ones a chance,” Rice.

She said there are not enough ventilators in Oklahoma for everyone that will need one at the peak of this pandemic, just like there wasn’t in China, South Korea, Iran, Norway or Italy.

“If Americans continue to not take this seriously, continue to surround themselves with luxuries instead of inconveniences, and stay away from each other it will not be between you and 15+ other people that need a ventilator to stay alive, it will be between you and your mom, or you and your sibling, or you and your best friend who gets the ventilator and a small chance to survive. But plot twist, you won’t be choosing...You are putting me and the doctors I work with in an impossible situation to choose who gets the ventilator and who doesn’t.”

She said the reality for those working in the hospital is simple: it’s not a matter of if they will run out of ventilators, it’s a matter of when.

Rice said, “Just stay home. Give your doctors and nurses and paramedics and respiratory therapists and health systems a chance to save lives without the burden of choosing between family members who lives and who dies.”

She said the country, the state, the city is in a state of emergency for a reason. Because this is an emergency.

“The memes were funny, but there is a time and place and now is the time to take this seriously,” she said. “I beg of you, as an ER nurse in the middle of it all. I am concerned that you think you are above it. You are not, and acting without regard for the lives of others is childish and stupid. I plead with you to stay home. Not just from the hospital but from everywhere. The majority of people that have died from this virus weren’t exposed at the hospital. It was the grocery store, restaurants, parties, walking by people on the street. But it’s really hard to be exposed to the virus in public places if you aren’t in public places. It is time to stay home. From a pleading ER nurse, begging for a chance.”

Kayla Shambles, a Claremore resident and nurse, said the pandemic has changed her day-to-day.

“It has definitely changed our operations. More cleaning measures are being implemented and we’re continually being educated on the newest protocols as everything continues to change, as well as educating our patients,” Shambles said.

“We gown, goggle, glove, and N95 mask up when we have a potential COVID-19 patient so that extends our times for others in the lobby because we need to isolate those patients in a room as quick as possible. If we test, we have to follow the proper chain of command on alerting personnel and doing rule-out testing.”

Despite the exponential growth of the virus, Shambles said, “We are still seeing all patients: injuries, flu-like symptoms, etc at normal business hours. So we are here for you and your family despite it all.”

A local EMS worker of nearly a decade said he doesn’t know how to describe the changes they’re seeing.

“We are taking more personal protection precautions than ever before. We are now screening patients with their travel history and what symptoms they have at a much farther distance than we used to,” he said. “Certain hospitals are requiring us to don gowns, masks, goggle and, of course, gloves before we even enter.”

He said, “On some calls, we are to call the emergency room physician and teleconference with them to find out what they want us to do—sometimes it’s to tell they patient to stay home and not go out because they will not be seen with the symptoms they are currently presenting.”

“Nursing homes and some hospitals are taking our temperature before we are allowed onto the premises. Some [ambulance] services require the employees to take each others’ temperature at the beginning of each shift,” he said.

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