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Doomadgee Nurse shares the reality of working on a COVID ICU ward during the height of the pandemic in India

Doomadgee Nurse shares the reality of working on a COVID ICU ward during the height of the pandemic in India

2021-11-16 09:56:21

Doomadgee Nurse shares the reality of working on a COVID ICU ward during the height of the pandemic in India

15th November 2021

An outbreak of COVID-19 is on our doorstep here in Queensland and the reality of what this means for Queensland and our vulnerable communities in the North West remains unknown. While we haven’t yet experienced the loss of life and the devastating impacts this virus has on a community, one man has.

Meet Jennings, an invaluable addition to the North West with over 10 years of experience working in ICU, Oncology and Emergency Departments and 18 months of hands-on experience working in a COVID-19 ICU ward at the height of the pandemic in India.

Working in a COVID ICU Ward

When India experienced an initial COVID-19 outbreak, Jennings was working at the Government Medical College Hospital in Kerala, the region with the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in India, ticking over five million positive cases to date. Here it was his responsibility to look after COVID positive patients. After undertaking Government training in the management of COVID patients in an ICU setting, the devastating work really began. 

“I cared for more than 300 COVID patients in our ICU and it was a tremendous and tiresome job. We were required to wear full PPE every single day and most of the time the nurse to patient ratio was overwhelming. The problem with wearing PPE for long periods of time was the excess perspiration which initially led to fungal infections,” he said.

“I trained more than 700 nurses in caring for COVID patients in ICU. There were so many sick people who needed help. At the beginning nurses got adequate time to quarantine after working in a COVID area. We would work ten continuous days on COVID duty followed by ten days of quarantine, but that stopped. We all needed to work.”

With his pregnant wife working on the frontline as a nurse alongside him and another young child at home, Jennings needed to get home safely to his family every day. It was a scary time both personally and professionally trying to keep his family safe from the virus too.

The Second Wave

Jennings shared that the hardest part of his 18-month experience working as a nurse on the frontline was when India experienced a second wave earlier this year. The initial outbreak saw predominantly 60+ years old and those with comorbidities losing their life. The second wave was different.

“Losing young, healthy adults without any comorbidities was the worst part for me. Witnessing their suffering and being there right until the end was devastating. Their last words still haunt me,” he said.

“During this time, most nurses weren’t sleeping. Rather than physical exhaustion, it was the emotional and mental exhaustion that impacted us all the most. I was a team leader and tried to create a positive environment for the patients and nurses, but it was a very stressful time.”

Jennings shared that it was very rare for family members of patients to be seen on the ICU ward. Once patients were admitted to ICU, it was likely their loved ones would not see them alive again.

Young people with post-COVID syndromes

Jennings shared that there was another side to the COVID-19 virus that was of significant concern amongst young people. After contracting the virus and surviving, patients with post-COVID syndromes also needed to be taken care of.

“We saw many young adults have multiple inflammatory syndrome (MISA) after being infected with the COVID-19 virus. They may not be in an ICU ward, but they still need to be taken care of and are an additional burden to the system.”

Despite enduring the toughest challenge of his career to date over the last 18 months, Jennings celebrated his seventh wedding anniversary with his wife in the COVID ICU ward, moved to Australia to continue developing his nursing career and most recently welcomed his second child, just six weeks ago.

A simple message

As we loom closer to borders being open in Queensland and see the risk of increased movement amongst our North West communities, Jennings has a simple message.

“Practice good hygiene after any work or travel, maintain social distancing, isolate if you have any symptoms and most importantly get vaccinated to fight against this deadly virus.”

We are fortunate to have welcomed Jennings to the Doomadgee Hospital and know he will be a wonderful addition to the North West.

Contact the North West HHS Vaccination Hotline on 1800 551 552 to find out where your nearest clinic is or visit your local GP or pharmacy.