Erin Fini, a certified respiratory therapist at Elkhart General Hospital, describes caring for COVID patients.

“We have patients coming into the Elkhart General Emergency Department who are having trouble breathing by the carloads every day. We see patients who are young and old, patients who have preexisting conditions, and people who are otherwise very healthy people. We have patients who are 30 years old and on a ventilator, and we aren’t sure they will be able to come off. Having just graduated in May, my introduction into the healthcare world has been quite the eye-opener.

“All of us are tired and completely overwhelmed. I feel for our COVID patients and want all of them to get better. But I know that’s not possible. We feel very happy and proud when we see patients who have been very sick, make a turnaround. We get attached to those we take care of day in and day out, and when we come into our next shift knowing they passed away from COVID, it can be devastating.

“Sometimes I’ve just sat in a room with a patient who is so short of breath that they feel like they’re dying. Seeing someone gasping for air because they can’t catch their breath is very upsetting to witness. I stay by their side to reassure them that we are here to take care of them. We have had many patients who come in short of breath and a minute or two later have gone into full cardiac arrest and we are performing CPR on them, all because of this virus.

“We’ve had patients in the hospital for months, unable to physically see their loved ones and it is heartbreaking. We try as hard as we can to be a comfort to them when they need it most. I can’t imagine being so sick and unable to be around my husband or my children. The people that bring you the most joy are the ones you can’t be around.

“I have always struggled with anxiety and depression. When I notice my mental health struggling from the long days and everything we see and do, I need to take some time to get my mind and body in the right mindset. These long days are overwhelming, troubling, and often begin to wear on us.

“Whenever it feels like too much, I remember why I went into this profession. I love taking care of people, I love working with the patients and getting to know them. I love my team and coworkers. The nurses and doctors we work alongside are amazing and do wonderful things for these patients. It’s such an honor to work with such smart and caring people.

“I urge people to take COVID very seriously. Wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands, and above all stay away from large crowds. I know we can’t live in a bubble. But if people don’t listen, and don’t follow the guidelines, things will start to shut down again. No one wants that. If things shut down, and businesses have to close, I fear for everyone’s jobs and for the economy. But I also fear for the health and lives of people in this community. Seeing the devastating effects this has on the body is terrifying. We need this to stop spreading.”