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Published on January 09, 2022

Critical Care nurse: COVID-19 is straining us, and it’s preventable

Critical Care nurses and staff are exhausted.

What if the next person who needs us is your mother?

Your child?


We’re almost two years into a deadly global pandemic. Patients battling COVID-19 fill Gundersen’s Critical Care Unit in La Crosse, where I work as a nurse for 12-hour shifts. Most of them are unvaccinated and can’t breathe without machines. ​​​​​​​

Every shift, we hook them up to ventilators, put in lines and start emergency dialysis.

Some survive.

Others don’t.

The virus that once preyed mostly on the elderly – the already vulnerable – has mutated. It’s killing younger, healthy people.

These are people in their 30s, 40s and 50s. They are young parents who won’t see their kids graduate or marry. They weren’t able to spend one last holiday with their parents. They hadn’t given their dog one last long belly rub. They didn't get the chance to hug their spouse or say ‘I love you’ one last time.

It’s rare when we have vaccinated COVID patients in our unit.

Being unvaccinated isn’t a badge of honor. It’s dangerous.

We can help supply your body with oxygen when it can’t on its own so that your heart and lungs can rest to fight COVID-19. But we can’t do it if you aren’t vaccinated against the virus. We’re superheroes without superpowers.

We’re tired of watching people die. It’s the reason some are leaving healthcare.

There is no cure for COVID-19. Unvaccinated, infected patients slowly suffocate and beg for us to save them. It’s painful to watch.

We’re lucky there’s a vaccine. Get it. Please.

We are exhausted. Please help us end this. ​​​​​​​

Casey Vale joined Gundersen’s Critical Care Unit in 2017.

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