A look inside overwhelmed ICU at KU Hospital as nurses care for COVID-19 patients

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – When it comes to the pandemic, a local ICU nurse believes people outside the hospital walls don’t have the same sense of urgency as those working in, in-patient.

While FOX4 cameras are not allowed in due to COVID-19 protocols, we asked KU Health System to help us show people what they’re experiencing. They provided video and sound from inside the ICU to us.

Inside the ICU at the University of Kansas Hospital busy nurses care for the sickest of the sick who have COVID-19. Staff say they perform a practice called “proning” – which is many patients’ last shot at life.

“If we’re proning somebody, that’s truly one of our last ditch efforts,” Respiratory Therapist Janine Ramirez said.

ICU Coordinator Jared Lysaught suits up to save a life.

“I’m going to start laying her flat,” Lysaught said to his staff who he calls soldiers.

This patient has COVID, is sedated and on a ventilator. Even so, her oxygen levels are getting dangerously low.

They use a technique to turn the patient with precise, safe motions from her back to stomach.

This can take up to seven nurses and respiratory therapists to make sure it’s done safely.

“That takes away staff from other patients and care that they might need at that time,” Lysaught said.

The hospital said it needs this kind of manpower for as many as eight patients a day. Before the pandemic, it was only every now and then.

“It is just frustrated and heartbreaking because staff are tired,” Lysaught said.

The hospital said on Tuesday, they had 107 COVID-19 patients. That’s up from 96 on Monday.

Of the contagious cases, 85%-90% are not vaccinated, according to the Health System.

“I have seen more death in our ICU, my unit, just on the days that I work, than I have probably seen in my entire career,” Lysaught said.

He’s been a nurse for 14, almost 15 years.

Lysaught admits that in the beginning of the pandemic he wondered if the vaccine was rushed.

Ultimately, he decided to protect his family and community by getting the shot.

Right now in the ICU, Lysaught is seeing one or two patients die of COVID-19 almost every day.

“It is just indescribable at times and painful,” Lysaught said.

Meanwhile, there’s one FDA approved vaccine that doctors said will help keep people from hospitalization and death, and another will likely be approved soon.

“I think that can be frustrating when you’re trying to do everything you can to save someone’s life,” Ramirez said. “And then you go outside and see someone who does not want to wear a mask.”

Ramirez said she would like to see the community step up their sense of urgency.

She urges those who can, get vaccinated. And wear a mask when you’re around other people who are not in your immediate family.

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