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Inside the ICU: Increasing number of COVID-19 patients pushes system to its limit

Last Updated Apr 7, 2021 at 2:19 pm EDT

Summary

Most of the staff working in the ICU have now received their first shot of COVID-19 vaccine


As Dr. Spiegelman walks through the halls, making his rounds, he's seeing the patients get younger and younger


During the first wave of the pandemic, the elderly were overcome by COVID-19


More than half of the intensive care unit (ICU) beds at Humber River Hospital are occupied by COVID-19 patients and the rest are full, as the number provincewide remains over 500.

It marks what has unfortunately become a typical day on the sixth floor of the facility for the doctors, nurses, and medical teams caring for those fighting the virus.

“We’re trained for this,” ICU doctor Jamie Spiegelman said. “We come into work and we do the best we can every day to help these people.”

As Spiegelman walks through the halls, making his rounds, he’s seeing the patients get younger and younger. During the first wave of the pandemic, the elderly were overcome by COVID-19. Now, the tide has shifted.

“It happens to young people,” Spiegelman said. “There’s no question about it.”

A 22-year-old man was on life-support there just last week. A 35-year-old man with COVID-19-related pneumonia is currently being treated for significant lung damage.

This week, a 49-year-old patient needed to be intubated after his oxygen levels started dropping, making it that much more difficult to breath on his own.

“A lot of the care we provide is unpredictable,” Spiegelman said. “Some patients, they could look exactly the same. One patient, we intubate and stabilize. One patient, we intubate and they die within a couple hours.”

Most of the staff working in the ICU have now received their first shot of COVID-19 vaccine. While it provides some personal relief, they know it will be some time before the workload eases. Dr. Spiegelman anticipates COVID-19 patients will continue filling beds for some time.

“It’s been a challenge in terms of taking care of these patients coming to the hospital every day, putting in overtime, doing extra shifts,” he said.

“At the same time, we realize that we’re helping these patients, making them better.”