As the Holiday Season Approaches, an ICU Nurse Manager Urges More COVID-19 Vaccinations

By Deondra Moseley, Clinical Nurse Manager of the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center

This weekend, children throughout the Greater Houston area will be skipping up and down streets, clutching tightly to buckets full of candy and screaming, “Trick-or-treat” at the top of their lungs. It will be a welcome return to tradition, especially after last year, when neighborhoods were largely quiet due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even this year, however, we were questioning the safety of trick-or-treating just a few weeks ago due to the fourth surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the highly contagious delta variant, which infected a large number of Houstonians and put unvaccinated individuals—including children—at especially high risk for complications from the virus. Thankfully, our numbers have been coming down, and we are all breathing a sigh of relief—albeit a cautious one.

This last surge was different, and in my nearly 20 years of nursing, I had never experienced anything like it. I am not just referring to the continued impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our lives. Rather, I have been astounded by the distrust of clear, undisputable medical science; the blatant disregard people have for helping their community by getting vaccinated; the sheer exhaustion within our nursing unit at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center; and, perhaps most importantly, my team’s inspiring resiliency despite it all.  

When I asked how my team was feeling during this fourth surge, I heard the words exhausted, anxious, angry and disappointed. Before, we were fighting a deadly virus. Now, we are fighting misinformation, and the refusal to take a lifesaving vaccine. Still, we carry on, and we continue to improve our clinical practices and serve our community to the very best of our ability.

My team is strong. Amid nurses leaving the field left and right, we did not lose anyone on my unit. We banded together, and we kept fighting. I think we all stayed because we are compelled to show up for each other. We are committed not only to our patients, but to our colleagues, who have gone through this battle with us for months on end. Every day we tell each other “I’ll be back tomorrow.” We say, “We got this,” and we give each other an elbow and go home to families who, no matter how hard they try, could never understand what we have been through these past nearly 20 months.  Our fearless leader, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer Catherine Giegerich, has reiterated these words since last March: “Dig deep, team.” During this past surge, those words have turned into, “Dig deeper.” We are giving it all we’ve got—and then some—and we won’t give up.

But not giving up also means not giving up on a better future, which requires help from the community we are proud to serve. I want our community to recognize the power of this vaccine. I want people to know that until we reach herd immunity through these vaccinations, there will be no end to these surges. I want them to understand that if this virus is given the time, it will eventually evolve into a new variant that could evade the vaccines. If we think these “unprecedented” times are bad now, imagine what our world would look like then.

I am so thrilled for all of the families who will be able to have a somewhat normal Halloween this year. I also want all of us to be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving surrounded by loved ones, as well as a joyous and full holiday season up through the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, 2021. I want us to end this year on a high note, not in the midst of yet another surge as a result of too many unvaccinated individuals attending close-knit holiday gatherings and celebrations. We must do everything we can do to avoid further spread of this deadly disease, and that means getting vaccinated if you have not already done so. It means getting a booster shot if you are one of those individuals eligible to do so. It also means getting your children vaccinated once their age group is eligible.

Someday, historians will write books about this pandemic. As with any story, there will be the heroes and the villains—the people who did the right thing for humanity, and those who selfishly looked the other way. These are not just characters in a story, like the costumed children roaming the streets on Halloween. This is real life, with real consequences at stake. 

I hope for more heroes here in Houston. I know I work alongside and lead many of them every day.

Comments

  1. Thank you all for being there!

    I’m also a nurse, ER, at a small rural level 4 critical access hospital. We’ve had to dig deep as well. We engineered an ICU in our endo holding area to care for the patients that we couldn’t ship to a larger facility. We had some awesome success stories, and many that were not as lucky

    My own brother-in-law was a patient at your hospital. He passed away 091121.
    He had been vaccinated; but also had been fighting cancer. He fought the good fight. In the end his family chose to honor his wishes and chose not to put him on ventilator care. He was adamant about that! It hurts so very deeply to now be on the other side of the story. I’ve lost distant family, friends and neighbors; but he was the first close family member to not survive.

    I feel confident that his care was well done. The communication from his care team with his family was excellent! There were extra calls made after they’d relay the updates to me and I’d remind them to ask deeper questions. Those calls were well received as well.

    All in all, my greatest regret is the isolation issue that ICU patients endure; and the families suffer through.
    I hate it at every level, even though I understand it professionally. Thank you all for assisting him communicate with his loved ones as long as he could. Thank you for allowing them a chance to be together with him before he passed to glory.

    I’m closing, I’m grateful for you as a health care team. Your work, like mine, is critical to our patients. Sometimes we never have positive feedback, and it is so difficult to only hear complaints.
    Please know, I love you all. We’re in this together.

    Peace be with you

    Stella Noey RN
    Sister-in-law of Jerald Don Rhodes

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