Registered nurse reflects on pandemic, ongoing battle against COVID-19

First responder reflects on the pandemic as COVID-19 cases continue to go down
Posted at 5:45 AM, May 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-13 07:28:54-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One registered nurse who worked through the entire pandemic is looking back on the past two years as National Nurses Week comes to a close.

Heather Vasquez says the fight against COVID-19 continues, with cases still popping up in Kansas City and beyond.

According to the Mid America Regional Council Database, since the start of May, the daily number of new Covid-related hospitalizations has been less than 60 a day and the average number of daily cases sits at 163 as of Friday.

“I think you just, you grieve as a nurse. Nurses grieve and then you put your mask back on and head into the next room because you have to be there,” Vasquez said.

She works in the emergency department at Saint Luke's Health System and says while current numbers are optimistic, the pandemic has taught her and the team to prepare for the unexpected.

Right now, Saint Luke’s doctors are seeing an increase in patients who have developed complications from the virus.

Doctors are seeing people coming in who had COVID-19 and are still experiencing shortness of breath and people who experienced strokes and other heart-related complications after a virus diagnosis. In addition, the majority of those patients are between 30 to 40 years old.

“We know that it's not, it's not done, but it's it is definitely down. We also see a lot of patients with like long haul symptoms, ongoing heart complications, breathing complications, things like that,” Vasquez explained.

It’s also no secret that COVID-19 has changed the health care industry and many front line workers are burnt out.

Vasquez says she understands why many of her colleagues left.

“You had a new pandemic that maybe most of us would only worry about, like seeing in movies, and all of a sudden it's coming through your front doors and we weren't sure exactly what to do at first. The rules were changing constantly,” recalled Vasquez.

She says that constant change continues to motivate her to show up to work, but that doesn’t come without sacrifices.

At one point she was balancing work, school and being a mom.

“The stress of coming home from work of having a stressful shift and seeing the things you saw during your shift at that time, coming home, educating my son, and then trying to stressfully you know, get through school and all that was too much stress,” Vasquez said. “So I had to take a step back from school for now.”

It’s unclear when she will be able to go back to school, so Vasquez says her focus is caring for her patients and her Saint Luke’s family.

“We have to be prepared to help people that need it in the ER we're the ones that save the day, so we're coming in to save the day,” Vasquez said.

At last check, Saint Luke’s Health System had 17 COVID-19 patients across their hospitals. For reference that is up from their lowest point at five patients system-wide in late April.

We want to hear from you on what resources Kansas City families might benefit from to help us all through the pandemic. If you have five minutes, feel free to fill out this survey to help guide our coverage: KSHB COVID Survey.