MARINA DEL REY, Calif. – After years as an ICU nurse, Lauren Yamashita thought she’d seen it all.
Then Covid-19 arrived at her unit.
“I’m a little bit anxious,” Yamashita told Spectrum News 1 as she drove to work. “Yesterday was really busy and I don’t really know what I’m walking into today."
As the number of Covid-19 cases continues to skyrocket across the country, medical professionals like Yamashita are working around the clock at tremendous risk to themselves and their own families.
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Yamashita, who works at Cedars Sinai Marina del Rey’s ICU, says at least half her unit is now filled with coronavirus patients. Many of them will never recover.
“It’s really hard, because I think we all have that hope maybe this is going to be the one that’ going to get better,” Yamashita said.
Since visitors are not allowed, Yamashita and her colleagues have had to master a new skill: serving as stand-ins for spouses, children and parents.
“It’s heartbreaking to hear the pain that they have because they can’t be there themselves,” she said.
While ICU nurses deal with trauma every day, this time it’s different because now they’re at risk of contracting the virus. Making matters worse, health care professionals have been experiencing acute shortages of personal protective equipment or PPE. Yamashita gets one mask per day.
To that end, Yamashita and her colleagues have found creative ways to extend the life of their daily allotted masks.
“We hold the mask up to our face, and then we put the Tupperware on and then we pull the strings over the outside of the Tupperware and cover it,” she said.
Like many of her co-workers, when Yamashita gets back home, she immediately sheds off the day, literally.
“I take my clothes off right at the door, it goes straight into the bag I carry the bag in one hand and the only thing I touch is the washing machine,” she said.
While she signed up for this line of work, her 93-year-old grandfather did not.
“It’s my greatest fear to accidentally bring it home,” she said.
But while she can take off the physical aspects of her work, the fear stays with her throughout the day and night.
“I have lots of dreams about work, nightmares I guess is more appropriate," she said. "It definitely brings a lot of anxiety.”