Tulsa COVID ICU Nurse Shares Perspective On Past Two Years, Current Surge

Friday, January 21st 2022, 5:16 pm

TULSA, Oklahoma -

Hillcrest HealthCare System said across its seven hospitals in Green Country, nurses and doctors cared for more COVID patients on January 21, than at any other day of the pandemic.

A Hillcrest spokesperson said there were 151 COVID inpatients throughout the Hillcrest system on January 21.

An ICU nurse who has been treating COVID patients since the first one came to Hillcrest Medical Center back in 2020, said he still remembers that first patient.

That patient recovered, but so many others have not.

"There's been so much needless death,” Chris Thompson said.

Caring for COVID patients in the ICU for two years has left a permanent impression on Thompson.

"Some of the room numbers, we can tell you, half a dozen patients that have died in that room, and we still remember their names and conversations we have with them,” he said.

Then, there are the patients who recover.

"They like to send us pictures of how they're doing with their families, and they send us treats and things like that and it's really nice to have that, kind of, to keep going,” Thompson said.

Chris encourages those who haven't yet, to get vaccinated.

He knows people are tired of hearing about the vaccine, masks, and distancing.

Instead, he has this message: "When I hear that people are tired of this, I wish that they could see how tired the people that are dying, struggling to breathe, are,” he said. “A lot of them aren't going to make it and then just watching them struggle to breathe until they're exhausted. It's horrible.”

Burnout, anger and other emotions have come in waves.

What gets Chris through each day is his bike ride home each night.

This is when he said he is able to physically and mentally distance himself from the COVID ICU.

"It makes me appreciate being able to breathe,” Thompson said.

When comparing the Omicron variant to Delta, Thompson said this time feels worse because of the higher number of patients.

He said what really bothers him is knowing there are patients in rural hospitals who need better care, but there simply is not enough room to bring them here.

On January 21, the state health department reported nearly 14,000 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours.

This brings the seven-day average for new cases to almost 12,000.

Health leaders said there are 119,000 active cases in the state.

Nearly 1,800 Oklahomans are in the hospital with COVID-19. The CDC reported 41 additional deaths in the past 24 hours.