COVID patients overwhelm Texas hospitals amid “flaming hair” crisis

“I think the climb came faster than we expected,” Dr. Lindsay Sonstein, a general practitioner at Jennie Sealy Hospital in the University of Texas medical branch, told ABC News. “Suddenly, it rises exponentially again in the middle of summer.”

Across the country, there are currently more than 100,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19. About 14,000 of these patients are in Texas, the highest number of patients receiving registered care. And statewide, nearly 94% of intensive care beds are currently in use by COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.

At Jennie Sealy Hospital in Galveston, Texas, front-line workers told ABC News that they sometimes feel “desperate” in the midst of this latest increase, particularly given that among those with the virus who it is currently treated in the ICU, all but one the patient, immunocompromised, is not vaccinated.

“There are a lot of patients who are not doing well,” said Dr. Shawn Nishi, an associate professor of critical care medicine at UTMB. “It’s very chaotic, because these patients are very unpredictable. At one point they look fantastic and the next day they die … It’s a time of ‘hair on fire’ in the ICU.”

He added that approximately two-thirds of hospital ICU patients are COVID-19, with almost all in ventilators.

Nishi acknowledged that caring for patients with COVID-19 for more than a year and a half has been an incredibly difficult burden for health care workers, and is now made even more stressful by the increase in the number of younger patients. . The staff is “emotionally worn out,” he said.

“You will see the faces of the nurses. They are the heart and soul of this institution, but some of them are dying with all the patients,” Nishi said. “Half of the COVID-19 patients right now are younger than me … This has never happened in my career. Now, I’m not that old, so I’ll tell you that our patient’s average age is very old, very young. We are not used to caring for this population, emotionally and physically. “

Many of the hospital’s patients are so ill that they carry ventilators and cannot communicate, said Yolanda Leyva, head of the ECMO program, a device used for cardiac and respiratory support. A significant number will not, he said.

“That’s real. And I say every day I wish those people could walk around these units and see why these patients go through,” Leyva said, referring to the unvaccinated.

Leyva admitted his frustration at the rampant misinformation about vaccines, and urged people to stop reading what’s on social media and instead seek answers from their doctors. “I mean, I feel bad for them to die, but they put themselves in that situation,” he said.

The latest wave has left patients waiting for hours in the emergency room to have an open bed.

“Having two-thirds of the ICU occupied by an illness is virtually unheard of,” Nishi said.

There are 678 patients waiting for a bed in Southeast Texas, with more than 4,000 hospitalized patients across the region, compared to just 138 ICU patients with COVID-19 in early July, according to the South Regional Advisory Council. is from Texas.

One such patient is Jacob Burchardt, 29, a father of two children under the age of 2, who has been ill in hospital with COVID-19 for a month.

He was admitted after having respiratory problems and was later placed in a ventilator. Burchardt and his wife had chosen not to get vaccinated, fearing they might be “asleep in bed” for a couple of weeks after the shooting and therefore unable to work.

“That’s as horrible as you think it is. Sometimes, you can get over it very quickly like I did in three days. Well, he got the worst of it,” his wife, Sarah, told ABC News.

Some patients have expressed remorse for not getting vaccinated, Nishi said, and pledge to receive the shot as soon as they are eligible.

“It’s a shame, but right now, we’re not focusing on grief, we just want to get them through and then vaccinate them when they’re done,” he explained, adding that “they have to survive first.” “

The disturbing realities of this pandemic will continue to wreak havoc on communities unless people take action and decide to get vaccinated, doctors said.

“COVID is real, it’s still here, and sometimes the public doesn’t realize it,” Sonstein said.