WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Ami Mitteer, a registered nurse at Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown, has been taking care of COVID patients as the number of people getting sick shot up in December and early January.
She’s been there as people came in to the hospital “much sicker,” facing longer hospital stays and as more people died.
Ami will tell you she’s tired.
“It’s been a long two months.”
Talking to a reporter Friday, she gave her best assessment of where the fight against COVID stands.
“I am hopeful now that the staff has been vaccinated, and vaccinations have become more readily available to the community, that going forward we see a decrease in COVID admissions and people start to be healthier,” she said.
But getting there has been - and continues to be - a struggle.
Ask her what her days are like, and she says “Busy - from start to finish.
“Some patients going home, but then we get patients back in just as quickly.”
Ami works on one of the two COVID units Samaritan has set up, a unit the hospital expanded as the need grew. On an average day, she’s taking care of four or five patients, painstakingly putting on protective gear, entering a room, doing what she needs to do, then getting back out of the gear, going to the next room, putting on a fresh set of gear. Over and over.
It’s how nurses stay safe, but it’s a lot of work.
Fortunately, Ami says, “the people that work alongside me are some of the bravest, most compassionate and caring individuals that I have ever met, and I am very lucky to call them my co-workers.”
That helps, as does a rock solid belief that she is where she’s meant to be, doing what she’s supposed to be doing - for patients and for their families. Getting to know the families has been a huge reward. But she has seen patients die, and because it’s COVID, they die with little or no family at hand.
“Family members want to come in and be with patients. But we also run the risk of exposing them to COVID,” she said.
“So unfortunately we have to limit family members that can be there with patients when they pass, and that’s incredibly sad. It’s hard to watch.”
She also sees more people - including young people - needing supplemental oxygen when they’re discharged from the hospital. For no obvious reason, COVID grips some people very hard.
So she wants people to know, from someone who is up close to COVID every day, that you really should wear a mask, socially distance, stay home as much as you can, get the vaccination when it becomes available to you.
Do what you can, and be hopeful.
Still, she says she can’t help but wonder “if there’s an end in sight. Sometimes it feels like there isn’t.”