An ICU nurse on the frontlines of America's coronavirus response has described the impact of seeing patients dying from the virus in a "gut-wrenching" interview aired on MSNBC.
Joey Traywick, a 48-year-old registered nurse at St Vincent Healthcare's Covid-19 ICU in Billings, Montana, revealed he was responsible for the first Covid-19 patient at the hospital.
In the emotional interview, Traywick says he still regrets misjudging how acute his patient's illness was. He said by the time he returned to her room, she was gone.
The US has seen a spike in Covid-19 cases, with the number of new infections reported daily on the rise in 47 states.
Over the past two weeks, more than 76,000 new virus cases have been reported daily in the US on average, up from about 54,000 in mid-October, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The virus has now killed more than 229,000 Americans.
"I've been doing this for a long time," Traywick said. "I know how much time I have."
But it happened so fast, Traywick missed it, he revealed. The patient died alone.
"And I thought, 'I'm never going to let that happen again,'" Traywick said, choking back tears during the interview. "It snuck up on me, and it surprised me because it's so relentless. … I (no longer) miss it. If I have to stay late after working, if it means doing it on my day off. They're not going to pass alone on my unit. Again. None of them."
Since then, Traywick said he's personally held hands with 23 patients who have died.
"I never thought it would happen here," he said. "I never thought we would be anywhere close to where we are now. ... I'm a good nurse — and the nurses I work with are good nurses — but we are broken."
This week, Montana reported its second-highest number of daily Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began. St Vincent has now expanded to three Covid-19 units.
"I would use the word 'crisis," absolutely," said Michael Skehan, St Vincent's chief operating officer.
"We've implemented a number of elements of our surge plan including doubling the size of our Covid unit," Skehan said. "We have a couple of more levers we can pull, but ultimately we're going to run out of options."
The virus is not only taking a toll on patients. Traywick has been self-isolating for months. He sleeps in his basement, away from his wife and three kids.
"Not only can I not hug the patients, I can't hug the nurses that are crying," Traywick said. "It's bizarre. It has absolutely wrecked us."