From The COVID Frontlines: TMH ER nurse tells WCTV about daily reality amidst new peaks in hospitalizations, deaths

When it comes to COVID-19, TMH ER nurse Megan Dunaway isn’t asking you to pick a side. But she is asking you to listen.
Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 6:02 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - In July 2020, WCTV reported at the peak of the COVID pandemic, Tallahassee Memorial Hospital’s COVID unit had 68 patients.

Fast forward to March 2021, when WCTV reported that TMH was not caring for a single COVID patient.

But just five months later, our community is dealing with a new, very grim reality.

COVID hospitalizations keep rising, multiple COVID deaths are a daily occurrence and it’s pushing our local healthcare systems and employees to the edge.

For the past few weeks, WCTV has given viewers daily COVID hospital stats.

On Monday, August 30, TMH had 130 COVID patients.

But a local TMH ER nurse says the numbers aren’t resonating.

Neither is fighting over masks, vaccines and misinformation.

That’s why last week, she wrote a post on Facebook giving people a glimpse at her reality which means it’s also our reality.

When it comes to COVID-19, TMH ER nurse Megan Dunaway isn’t asking you to pick a side. But she is asking you to listen.

“I had 10 shifts. 10 COVID patients. All 10 are dead. All 10 were unvaccinated. All 10 were men. And all 10 had no comorbidities,” Dunaway said.

And that was enough.

A boiling point that lead this 18-year ICU/ER nurse to write her thoughts down on Facebook.

“It just came over me, the devastation that I’ve seen and the need to, want to honor all the patients that have died at my hands, and to honor the staff that I work with and to honor my children, who do not have the same mom that they did a month ago,” Dunaway said.

Dunaway said it wasn’t always like this. But a new year brought a new strain of COVID, the Delta variant.

“I’m terrified for our community. I’m not terrified to be at work. I feel as safe as I can be. I’m not terrified out in the community for myself. But I’m terrified for our community because we are dying off drastically. Drastically dying off and it makes no sense to what I have been taught as a nurse. This makes no sense to me, that a virus could kill a normal, healthy, 40-year-old person that had nothing underlying,” Dunaway said.

But they are.

TMH reopened its COVID unit in July 2021. That month, they had seven COVID deaths.

As of August 30, 2021, with one more day in the month to go, TMH has seen 67 people died of COVID-19.

Hundreds more have been hospitalized.

“What we’re seeing is vaccinated patients do come in here with COVID, but they survive. Unvaccinated patients are coming in and they’re not surviving,” Dunaway said.

She said this is pushing Tallahassee’s hospitals to the brink.

“Our system is overwhelmed and our triage nurses are overwhelmed by the amount of people that are coming in. Our waiting rooms are overflowing. We’ve had to rearrange things daily to decide where are we putting sick symptoms, where are we putting the people that are coming in with the heart attacks to keep them away from the COVID patients, where are we putting COVID positive, that we know are COVID positive versus the people that are coming in symptomatic that we don’t want to sit with the COVID positive, but they can’t sit with the other, non-COVID emergencies,” Dunaway said.

Dunaway said TMH’s ICU, COVID unit and ERs are a daily medical chess match, but the pieces are patients with less room to spare every day.

That’s why she said it was time for her to speak up.

“I would never tell somebody what the right thing is for them. That is not my goal in this. It was to get the information out to say here it is. Now, you can make a truly informed decision based on our community,” Dunaway said.

A community were healthcare workers like Dunaway, are begging us to stop fighting and focus on the real crisis in front of us.

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