Healthcare workers are at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19, but some are falling ill with the virus themselves before getting vaccinated. One local nurse is pleading with the public to help stop the spread.
"We are overwhelmed with patients, for one. We are overwhelmed with admissions, but we also have a lot of staff sick calls and as result, a lot of us are working extra hours," said Robyn Sarvis, a registered nurse at Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center.
Sarvis has been treating COVID-19 patients since March. Last month, she tested positive for the virus.
“I sat at home wondering, every day, if it was going to get worse,” remembered Sarvis.
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She knows first-hand how severe COVID-19 symptoms can get.
“A lot of patients who come to the hospital started out 'hanging in there', okay at home, and they needed to come to the hospital a week or 10 days into symptoms,” said Sarvis.
Thankfully, in her case, she said her symptoms didn’t get any worse than body aches, back pain, loss of taste and smell, a cough and extreme fatigue.
"Very, very heavy fatigue. To the point where I really was only up to use the restroom and lay back down," Sarvis explained. She was out of work all December. “I didn’t want to be at home, I didn’t want to be away.”
Sarvis said she had filled in for other nurses who were out sick with COVID-19 before she was and knew resources were already stretched thin.
“A lot of nurses are working 12 and 16 hour shifts right now, more than just their three days a week. Some are working weeks at a time on that shift, which is a lot and it’s exhausting,” said Sarvis.
She said her department has been packed with COVID-19 patients since the Thanksgiving surge.
“We’re not kidding when we tell you we’re full. The patients and numbers of patients that you’re hearing about and how we’re overwhelmed, it’s real, it’s true,” said Sarvis.
While the rollout for vaccines has been slow and many healthcare workers have yet to be vaccinated, Sarvis said she's hoping they'll become available to everyone soon. She is also seeking cooperation from the community.
“We’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic, but we’re not there yet. With the vaccines coming out, with people really paying attention to the public health measures; wearing the masks, keeping distance and protecting themselves and their families, we will get through this pandemic,” said Sarvis.
Sarvis’ has not regained her sense of taste and smell. And she still experiences waves of fatigue.
“I can’t smell dangerous smells like a fire or gas leak. I can’t smell the good smells like my holiday candles and lotions,” Sarvis explained.
She told NBC 7 she is not sure how she contracted the virus and explained there is plenty of PPE available at Kaiser and that she and her colleagues practice safety protocols.