Randy Stouder has worked as a Respiratory Therapist for more than 40 years, including 19 years at Beacon. Since February, Randy has cared for COVID patients in the Emergency Room, Intermediate Critical Care, Medical floors and Intensive Care units at Elkhart General Hospital.

“To accurately describe what is happening in our hospitals today I would say is like experiencing a tsunami. Watching in fascination from a beach as water is pulled out into the ocean, slowly trickling back in, followed by the crescendo of waves driving inland to its high point, slowly receding dragging carnage back into the ocean. I have never experienced anything like this professionally for this length of time that is far from over, with no end in sight.

“Work has become a personal struggle of fortitude and perseverance every day I am at the hospital for 12 hours or more. After months of caring for COVID patients the daily sore throat and sinuses, tinnitus, aching feet, back pain, fatigue, skin breakdown on my hands, dehydration and headaches cause a delirium that last for days when I’m off. This is my reality when I take care of people who are actively dying from COVID and we are trying our best to save them. A typical 12-hour workday involves wearing a PAPR/HEPA hood, N95 mask or surgical mask, donning and doffing gowns, gloves, washing hands or using hand sanitizers. Standing hours at bedside treating patients that by the end of the month will finally die. I have taken care of patients from the ER until discharged via a wheelchair or gurney to the morgue. Patients deteriorate rapidly before us even while being treated with the best medication regimen and the best equipment.

“When a patient has died, the equipment is immediately cleaned, set up, and placed on another patient waiting to fight their battle. There is no time to reflect, or debrief, or mourn a death because there are more sick people to treat. People are dying of COVID regardless of age, gender, whether they are healthy or not. COVID is an equal opportunity and unbiased infectious disease. I am exhausted and angry, and these last 10 months have left a lasting affect on me. Please wear a mask when out and about, use hand sanitizer or wipes, self-isolate, social distance, and avoid large gatherings. Do this for yourself, for family, and for the community. If all of us do this together we will have fewer hospital admissions, fewer deaths, and more family and friends alive. We will have a few more holidays, or anniversaries, or births to celebrate.

“And I really want to walk my daughter down the aisle.”