A nurse administers care to patients in the acute care COVID unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
While we hear stories about full hospitals and people sick with COVID who are fighting for their lives, it’s hard to picture or fully understand what’s happening from the outside.
Kat Bunn, a woman from Vancouver, Washington, was vaccinated, yet still caught COVID-19. She had to be hospitalized, and she posted on Facebook detailing what she went through. She also shared her experience with KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show.
“I’m on immune suppression meds for inflammation, but I got vaccinated in April as soon as I could because I am immune suppressed,” Bunn explained. “I took a trip to Utah and Vegas with some friends and unfortunately contracted COVID when I was there. I didn’t know, I thought I had a bad cold, and within two days I went from a bad cold to really, really sick. I (had a) high fever and just an incredible amount of pain with my back and my legs, kind of delirious.”
At this point, she was back at home. After testing positive for COVID, Bunn went to the emergency room.
“They treated me, gave me oxygen, gave me IVs, got me stable and said, ‘well, we think we’ve done enough,’ and sent me home, but overnight I got worse,” she said. “In the morning, I told my husband I just can’t do this anymore. I could hardly get out of bed — they rushed me to urgent care.”
From there, she ended up in a COVID ward.
“To be honest, you’ve seen all this information online about COVID wards and it just seems so mysterious, so I really didn’t know what was going to happen to me, but they rolled me in — hours later, because there is no room in the hospitals anymore,” she said. “They are completely full up.”
Inside the COVID ward
Once she was moved to the hospital, to a COVID ward, Bunn says she had a roommate who was crying and pleading to be taken off the oxygen mask, which was keeping her alive.
“I’ve got to be straight with you, when they put me on high oxygen flow, nasal cranial, it is very claustrophobic,” Bunn said. “It has water going through it because the oxygen is so high that it’s hot. So you do feel a bit like you’re drowning because the water is going in your nose and you’re trying to breathe and your brain just instinctively thinks, ‘I’m drowning.’ So you try to pull it off but you can’t because you know you need it.”
Bunn says, sadly, she believes her roommate passed away. They had brought her roommate’s son into the room in full COVID protection gear and the roommate said she didn’t want to fight anymore.
“She had three sons and grandchildren because I kept hearing her phone calls, and she started making the calls, saying goodbye,” Bunn said. “And at that time, my oxygen plummeted — I think it was horror at what I was hearing and just stress and COVID taking over.”
Racing to the ICU
The nurses ran in to rush Bunn upstairs to a newly vacant ICU bed that had one electric BiPap machine. The other machine they had for Bunn was running low on battery power, so they had just three minutes to get there.
“They raced me to the ICU, literally raced me. They had the battery operated machine, which was on wheels, and they had extra oxygen tanks on the bed with me. About six nurses were surrounding my bed and running with me,” Bunn described. “I was on the second floor, COVID ward. ICU is up on the fifth.”
“So they were running down the hallway with this machine. At one point the machine pulled away from my mask and I was grabbing it midair and clamping it back on my face as we were running through the hallways on my bed,” she added. “We made an elevator, made it out, made it there, and they plugged me in, and there was three minutes left on the machine as they were running.”
All the nurses, Bunn says, said they couldn’t believe they made it upstairs in time. Bunn says she didn’t realize at the time that those nurses had just saved her life.
“I was just so busy surviving, I didn’t even think, ‘oh, I’m dying,’” Bunn said.
Hospitals are ‘full up’
Now, Bunn is recovering at home, and she’s encouraging people to get vaccinated.
“I have a special needs son. He’s autistic. He’s doing very well, but he needs a lot of emotional support. And I kept thinking, ‘oh my gosh, what’s going to happen to my son?’” Bunn said, describing how difficult the isolation aspect of COVID can be.
When her husband took her to the emergency room, she didn’t hug him goodbye as she was worried he could catch COVID from her.
“I was kind of like, thank you, I staggered out of the car and went into the emergency, and it wasn’t until after that I was healing that it really hit me. I would have not been able to see my son and say goodbye. I would have not been able to say goodbye to my husband. That was it,” Bunn said. “That’s your last moment is just living life. And then it’s gone.”
“I just don’t understand the unwillingness to get vaccinated when this is a reality,” she added. “This is your loved ones, your family that you’re putting at risk, and yourself at risk. It is real. That’s why I started documenting it to my friends on Facebook because I had the same thought: We really didn’t know what it was like to go through COVID. We kind of got bits and pieces, but we really didn’t understand how intense it is, and how fast it is.”
Bunn describes how she heard nurses talking about how many people are dying, and recalls hearing “code blue,” which means cardiac arrest, at least two to three times a day.
“These nurses are working double shifts. There’s not enough nurses. The hospitals are full,” Bunn said. “That is not a political conspiracy theory. They are full up. The nurses are having to try to fill in all these gaps. These were nurses from all over — Trinidad, Guatemala, Ukraine — people that have been away from their homes. One nurse was from South Carolina, a lot of traveling nurses that had been in the hospital for a year, away from their own families because there is such a shortage and so many people down with COVID.”
“And especially the delta variant, it moves so quickly, and it’s very virulent, and people end up in the hospital I think more so than when we had the first run of COVID, according to the nurses,” Bunn added.
Bunn says she’s lucky she can be at home to recover and not have to work. She’s still on oxygen and says she can get up to make a cup of tea but then is so weak that she’s out of energy the rest of the day.
“I’m fortunate where I can be home, but I can’t imagine the financial costs for people that have to work,” she said. “There’s no way you can work. You catch COVID, you’re down for a month.”
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