ICU nurse working with Covid patients says virus wreaks havoc
‘All of these super-sick patients are sick because of Covid.’ – Kandace Pierce
An ICU nurse from Albion has been on the front lines the past month treating Covid-19 patients at a hospital in Cheektowaga.
Kandace Pierce, 33, works 12-hour night shifts at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Cheektowaga. It was made a Covid-19 only hospital by Catholic Health with a capacity for 80 patients.
Pierce works with three or four patients a shift. They need a lot of attention. Some are in their 20s and 30s, and others are much older.
“These patients are some of the sickest I’ve ever seen,” Pierce said in a phone interview. “They are not normal ICU patients. These are very sick people.”
Pierce has been an ICU nurse the past 14 years. She has worked at St. Joseph’s for about four years. Before the hospital was changed to Covid-only, Pierce worked in the ICU and typically worked with two to six patients a shift.
The hospital was dedicated to Covid-19 patients on March 26. It went from having a few Covid patients in late March to about 40 now.
Pierce has watched people come in with shortness of breath and fevers, and quickly be in trouble, with multiple problems, not just respiratory issues. Their intestines slow down, and their kidneys and livers often are failing.
“This affects your entire body, not just your lungs,” Pierce said. “All of these super-sick patients are sick because of Covid. Once they are sick enough to need ICU care they go downhill really fast.”
Her advice to Orleans County residents: take the virus seriously.
People should keep washing their hands frequently, practice social distancing and wear masks, even after the state loosens some of the strict restrictions and allows some businesses to reopen, Pierce said.
She works in the “red zone” at the hospital with the sickest patients. Many have been intubated and are on ventilators.
The hospital is quieter than usual, because there aren’t any visitors. That also make a somber scene even worse because the patients are very ill, and don’t have the comfort of loved ones in the room. The hospital has iPads to help patients communicate with family. Nurses will sometimes need to hold the device for the patients.
“It’s hard to see somebody who is not doing well and their family can’t see them,” Pierce said. She worries about going to work and catching the virus. Thankfully, she said, none of her co-workers have got it. Catholic Health has provided employees with multiple personal protective equipment, with fitted N-95 masks, goggles, gowns, hair coverings and gloves.
“They provide us scrubs, so we change clothes before leaving,” Pierce said. “They also provide a local hotel room if we want to shower before coming home.”
Pierce is an Oklahoma City native. She and her husband Nicholas were on a vacation to Niagara Falls when they fell in love with Western New York. They moved to WNY in 2016, impressed with the quality of schools, the relatively low-cost living and the many healthcare options.
“We just thought the area was beautiful,” Pierce said.
They like the history of the area, and the big old houses with sizable back yards. And those houses are affordable, especially in the small towns. The couple has two sons, ages 5 and 10.
The family lived in Buffalo their first year in WNY before moving to Albion about three years ago.