To Our Communities: An ICU Nurse's Plea

Image of Cara Crumrine, UnityPoint Health ICU Nurse

Written by Cara Crumrine, RN for UnityPoint Health

As an intensive care nurse at UnityPoint Health, I’ve seen fellow medical personnel in my life putting out scary memes and begging posts asking people to help them. I’ve seen other community members speak about how it’s not right or fair to have government officials interfere in their livelihood. I’ve seen these comments, plus countless more, and decided it’s time to speak up. 

This is hard. I haven’t been in a situation where I watch the world I’ve built with hard work slowly disappear. I haven’t watched my savings slowly go down week by week. I can’t imagine the toll this takes on your feelings of security and safety. If the pandemic is affecting you in this way, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry you are bearing this burden.

My affliction by this pandemic is different. This pandemic affects my work, too, but it doesn’t make my work disappear. It intensifies it. It makes it unbearable. I take care of patients who I regularly think aren’t going to make it. I try to educate grief-stricken families on the phone when I don’t know any answers. I hold the iPad, so the family can see their loved one. I intrude on the private moment where they say, “I love you,” over and over and over amidst the sobs. I try to console the 30 year old who doesn’t understand why his father isn’t going to survive COVID-19, because all he had was diabetes and high blood pressure. 

I go home, but the nightmares don’t stop. I can’t get these patients out of my head. 

I don’t share my experience to be dramatic. I’m trying to be honest. I haven’t experienced anything like this in my 15 years of critical care nursing. When this ends, I don’t know how many of us will be left. I absolutely love nursing. I truly believe it’s what I was created to do, but I just don’t know what I’ll be like at the end of this pandemic. I don’t know if I will be able to bring myself to keep doing it. 

This is why I, along with everyone else at UnityPoint Health, am asking for your help. We need you. This pandemic is impacting us all, whether we get sick or not. Let’s put aside our differences and work together – wear a mask, wash your hands, avoid gatherings – even small ones – and just stay home. This is a hard request. It’s a hard thing to give up what helps you survive for the benefit of others you don’t know. 

I urge you to influence and challenge your immediate circle. You can make a difference. Together, we can reduce the spread of COVID-19.