Six months of COVID-19 in Mississippi: Nurses discuss the impact and losing fellow nurses

Nurses discuss battling COVID-19 on the frontlines.
Nurses discuss battling COVID-19 on the frontlines.(WLBT)
Published: Sep. 12, 2020 at 9:42 AM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight have gone through a range of emotions and adjustments to how they work.

“You’ve seen patients that are sick your entire life,” explained nurse practitioner and ER director for Merit Health Central Christine Shirley. “So, you kind of prepare for that. But I think it was a lot more scary in the beginning than what it is now that we’ve got a handle on it and what it is.”

Robert Myers is a staff nurse at Merit Health Central. After working a seven day rotation, including caring for some COVID patients, he realized he, too, had the virus.

“It was the sickest I’ve ever been for sure,” Myers described.

Myers said he never became a long-term patient but did require a couple of ER trips.

“Sixteen straight days of fever,” he said. “Pretty high at times... the highest fever I’ve ever run 103.8. I did develop bilateral numerous pneumonias throughout my lungs.”

For him, it’s made an impact on his work.

“I think I’ve always tried to sympathize with the patients but having experienced something and having that in common... it does help,” Myers added. “Sometimes it helps alleviate their anxiety if I can share my story with them.”

But some of the state’s nurses have had different outcomes.

“They are planning a national service to honor all nurses that are lost to COVID-19 and we will be participating in that and submitting our part,” said Connie Williams.

Connie Williams founded the Mississippi Nurse Honor Guard a year ago. Their Facebook page has allowed a landing page for tributes to those who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice doing what they were called to do... serve.

“It doesn’t matter what that patient has whether it’s COVID-19 or flu or a heart attack.... I’m going to be there serving that patient,” said Williams. “It’s what I’m supposed to do. We took the nightingale oath and that’s what I’ll continue to do for the rest of my life.”

All three of those nurses stressed the importance of not letting fear keep you from going to the hospital if something is wrong. They noticed early on that many were waiting till they were very sick to actually come in.

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