Avera ICU Doctor & Nurse describe worst of Pandemic

Coronavirus

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — For doctors and nurses who work in critical care units, the last 12 months have been some of the toughest of their careers.

They’ve had to watch patients die from COVID-19 and faced the danger of exposure themselves. Molly Hermann has been a nurse at Avera for 3 years.

“I dreaded work a lot of days because you come in, we all have this feeling and the reason that we’re here is because we want to help people, we want to see people get better and we just didn’t see that,” said Hermann.

For the ICU team here at Avera, the worst came during October and November at the height of the Pandemic and there is no doubt it took an emotional toll.

“There were a lot of patients that we weren’t able to help or save, and so having that stack up day after day and shift after shift was a lot,” Hermann said.

Hermann says she had one patient that wasn’t going to make it, so the woman’s family agreed to take out the breathing tube and transition to comfort care.

“Her family was there but couldn’t be at the bedside because of the COVID,” said Hermann. “And so I told them I would stay with her until she passed and so when it didn’t happen right away, I moved her bed right by the door. We have big sliding glass doors to all of our rooms and, so I moved her bed right by there, so she could be as close to her family as possible, and just held her hand as she passed and tried to let the family be as much as a part of it as I could. Um, and that hit me hard.”

Dr. Tony Herricks also spent long hours in the ICU. He’s a pulmonologist, so with serious cases involving breathing problems, his expertise is essential.

Not only did Tony and Molly have to watch patients die, they knew some of their fellow doctors and nurses in other parts of the country were losing their lives.

“I’m 48 and when I see that I didn’t know when I would be there the next day because I really wasn’t certain whether I would get out of this because my assumption was all those providers who have died in those big cities, they were trying to do the same thing we were doing. And I’m not sure why they got sick and why they’re not with us today,” said Hericks.

Both are hopeful and grateful. Grateful to those who gave them support and hopeful the worst of COVID-19 is behind us.

“Things have slowed down but think there is still a little bit of fear that this thing isn’t over. But I think that there a lot of hope that we’ve turned the corner and we’ll get there but I think it’s still going require us to social distance a little bit to wear our masks wash our hands to try to do the right thing until we get enough people vaccinated. And then we’ll find out what the real new normal is, and we kinda go from there,” said Hericks.

Dr. Hericks says he suspects there will be some PTSD for many front-line medical workers. He also says he’s grateful for the community support and feels it will help everyone with the healing process.

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