Hometown nurse on front lines in New York hospital shares her experiences to help inform, prepare others

Shauna Davis (right) and fellow nurses are suited up to help at a New York hospital that is overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

Shauna Davis, who graduated from Devine High school, has been in the nursing field for 14 years. She recently began volunteering on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in a New York hospital that is overwhelmed with patients.  She arrived in New York last Wednesday is sharing her story with us of the heartbreaking and shocking things she has seen there.

She describes thoughts running through her head on the first day as “the fear of the unknown, and what you’re going to walk into, and even if you prepare yourself for the worst, I don’t even know if that would have described it today.”

“It’s about a 40 to 45 minute commute from our hotel…When we arrived there, we had to start with hospital orientation” which included “a crash course on ventilators.”

“After that, we got fitted again for N95 masks,” she continues, “Then we got our bunny suits and boots to wear, shoe covers, and our face shields….. I’ve never had to gown up like that my entire life, and I did today, all day, and that will be for the remainder of my 21 day stint here. That goes for everybody in the hospital, everybody in the hospitals wearing it, unless you’re not in the patient care area….Everybody has on the N95 mask–that’s not an option.”

“So this hospital is an old hospital…..The nurses are very nice the doctors are very nice there are a lot of residents working this crisis so that’s great. They’re very helpful, they’re in the rooms a lot.

“I was sent to the ER today. And it wasn’t as bad, they said, as it has been….They’re seeing a plateau over the last four days…..But everybody that comes in you treat as COVID because 95% of them are.”

“The ICU is full. PACU [post-anesthesia care unit] is no longer PACU, it has turned into an ICU and a step-down unit. But today it’s mainly become just ICU. Then there’s the step-down unit, and then there’s I don’t know how many med surg units, tele units, but they are all turned into COVID units….all of them are positive units, every single one of them. Even labor and delivery, they’re positive, they’re all positive units.”

“In the Med surge units…. you have ventilated patients. Still on drips. They’re just not where they need the critical care of the ICU, or the step-down. They go to med surge. Shockingly…..you might get five or six of those, maybe not as many drips so instead of seven drips they only have two. That’s how they’re able to send them to the med surg unit. It’s crazy.”

“People are still dying……They are seeing patients with potassium to high or too low, which is not good. So for other people it can cause some altered mental status, delirium, along with other symptoms. A lot of patients are clotting, having blood clots, throwing blood clots. They’re on heparin drips, insulin drips, because their sugars are all over the place. Over 800. A lot of them 700, 800. It’s crazy so they’re on insulin, heparin…..maybe an antibiotic too.”

When it comes to many commonly used drugs, they are simply “nowhere to be found,” she said. “Because they are out of it.”

For example, “There’s no epi in the crash carts. They’re supposed to be getting more, but there’s none right now. These are all important meds that are needed…. to treat patients but especially critical care intubated patients…. these are these are meds that are needed and they, they’re soemtimes using other meds in place because they don’t have those meds.”

Even “Normal saline,” she says, “They got a shipment in so it’s a little bit better, so now you can just have regular, normal saline. Prior to that they did not.”

“I’m kind of speechless, I don’t even know where to go with my conversation because it…..It was……It was a culture shock. Just going into that environment.”

“All the nurses very helpful, residents very helpful. Doctors super helpful at the bedside…..There’s no lab techs, you’re drawing your own labs….But one thing is that doctors here, they want to collect their own blood cultures.”

“And respiratory specialists, poor things, they’re few and far between, and they are running their tails off, the same as anesthesia. ‘Anesthesia!…..Anesthesia to room such-and-such, anesthesia to room such-and-such!’ she echoes the day’s events….. They, of course, are needed to intubate patients. Anesthesia was being called over the loudspeaker, a lot. And Rapid response, rapid response, rapid response. And they said today was not a bad day….”

“And a lot of times they were being called to a med surge unit. So that’s sad. What is supposed to be more of a stable patient is really not…….Med surg is getting a lot of patients that need to be on ventilators –  because they’re doing okay, and then all of a sudden- they crash. And a lot of the nurses were telling me they’d be sitting there talking to you. Or they’ll be sitting there talking out their head but they’re talking, they’re coherent, and next thing you know they’re not, at all. Either they’ve got a clot, or, some of them have passed, or you just see them start crashing. Blood pressure goes way high and then all of a sudden, they’re way…..60s over 30s, and that’s the common thing for them.”

“So it’s– it was humbling. I mean even on the worst of worst days I think I’ve ever had. Multiply that times 100. And that’s the patients that they’re seeing…..Not that my day was bad…. It just was very. It was a culture shock, I was like what am I doing here…”

“I know some of the nurses there that I talked to, they’ve been doing ICU for 17, 19 years. One lady’s been doing ER 19 years, and she said, never in her life has she witnessed anything like this. She said she still goes home and cries almost every day.”

Yet, “This week hasn’t been as bad, they said, because they haven’t had as many patients pass away. On a typical day, it  was 12 before noon.”

“One thing that still gets to me the most…….are the semi-truck trailers. Just the trailers outside. I think three, four, full of deceased people….I feel bad for them, I feel bad for their family.”

“We learned today to let patients use iPads and stuff, so that they’re able to talk to their family. So, different things that you wouldn’t implement before, we’re implementing now into their plan of care.”

“I was trying not to cry on this but just talking about the trailer leaves a lump in my throat.”

“Repiratory [specialists], they’re running ragged,” she adds.

“This hospital that I’m at– the reason that they needed a lot more nurses, not only for the patient influx that they’ve had, but because they’ve had several become ill  from the coronavirus. Become ill and pass away, or that are out sick, or on quarantine….That’s what people are saying.”

She also discusses the huge toll not only on medical staff, but on housekeeping who is carrying the load of PPE gear being discarded constantly as staff has to suit up and suit down once again.

“Housekeeping….They are so friendly they’re like, ‘Hello, how are you doing?’ you know, but they’re in there cleaning patients’ rooms and beds too, and helping move deceased bodies from one stretcher to another so that stretcher can be cleaned and moved on to the next person that comes in. And that’s a frequent thing for them.”

“About five days ago they had four patients to a bay. Yes, four patients, three to four patients to one bay. They would stack the beds and then put one on the end, and then they would move that one to get to the other ones.”

She adds that “pump tubing is kind of like gold,” and discussed the makeshift ways that New York hospitals desperate for supplies are making it work.

“And they do have enough ventilators now. I know that was an issue and concern but now they do. I’m trying to think what else I can tell you, it’s been a long day.

“I’m going to try to talk to some of the doctors tomorrow to kind of see what are the other common signs that they’re seeing with these patients are coming I know a lot of them is the potassium’s out of whack. Altered mental status seems to be more now prominent than anything else, along with fever, chills aches, discomfort, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, some GI bleeds…….So, all my healthcare, friends and family you guys can kind of use your critical thinking and come up with, why that is happening to so many of them.”

“Last week, last week they were stepping over bodies. This week they’re very thankful that they’re not doing that, stepping over a body to treat another patient…….We do have proper PPE, if we do not, we’re not to take an assignment….If you ask for it, they’ll give it to you every day. They like for you to keep it five days.”

“And I’ll let y’all know how tomorrow goes fingers crossed that it’s okay day like today we keep seeing the plateaus where it’s not rising and there’s not a like just an influx of patients, and we can maintain these numbers.”

“Other than that, again, thank you to everyone for all the well wishes the prayers and the words of encouragement…..You guys don’t know I read those on the bus ride this morning, even though I might not reply to everybody, I was reading through all of them in the messages and the care packages…..I saw some nurses that had some rough days today so I will be passing on your words of encouragement and your cards and everything….I will be sharing.”

“I’m glad that in Texas, we’re under the curve, and that’s amazing and I hope it stays that way. I really, really hope so.”

She stated, of her time in New York, ” I think I might cry every day I have to drive up and I see those [semi-trucks full of deceased bodies] on the side of the building. It makes it hard to swallow. I probably will……So be thankful for your family and be thankful for who you’re sitting with right now.”

In the end of her last video she posted for friends on Facebook, she states “I love you guys in Texas, you guys are showing Big Love….I’m very thankful for each and every one of you. And I will see you all tomorrow I’ve got to get some sleep. Goodnight.”

Shauna is the daughter of Melody DuBose Brown of Natalia, Jimmy Brown, and Jim Smith. The granddaughter of Hettie Tilley Cunningham and Johnny and Lothell DuBose, and Gary & Melody Brown of Moore.

” I enjoy her facebook posts  daily since she flew to New York this week to work as a nurse in a hospital for a 21 day 12 hour shift.  Whatever she receives in New York she shares with the other nurses whether it be masks, thank you cards, gift cards.  They house her and the Texas nurses together and bus them to Coney Island every day and back.  They make me cry but I am so proud of her. A rural Texan girl in the big city. She said she always wanted to go to New York, but never thought it would be like that. She is really dedicated and tough but so kind hearted,” said her Aunt Judy DuBose of Mableton outside of Atlanta, Georgia, a longtime Devine News subscriber and Class of 1959 Devine High School, a classmate of  Eddie Hutzler.