Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect case numbers for July 26.
As the number of cases of COVID-19 continue to climb in Cullman County, so do the number of patients hospitalized with the illness. Cullman Regional Medical Center is currently treating 24 COVID-19 patients, four of whom are on ventilators.
On Sunday, Cullman reported its ninth death from the virus and 946 confirmed cases. Veteran critical care nurse Donna Snow is one of the nurses on the frontline, caring for patients in CRMC’s intensive care unit.
Snow has been a nurse for 42 years and along with RN, she has certifications in cardiac medicine and acute/critical care. She said the disease caused by this novel coronavirus is “scary.”
“We have this new disease and so much is unknown and it is spreading rapidly,” she said. “Each of us feels the need to protect not only our patients but also our own families. Plus, the extra attention required to properly care for patients on a ventilator is very tasking.”
They have more patients on ventilators and are “proning” patients — putting them face down rather than on their backs, which helps improve airflow — a process that requires five to six nurses. She said the patients they’re seeing are sicker than what they normally see this time of year.
In addition, “There are no visitors, so we are the only people these patients see during their stay,” said Snow.
The medical staff are wearing additional protective gear, which take extra time to put on and take off. That protective equipment doesn’t just protect Brown, but also her family, who she says she worries about.
“I try my best to follow all guidelines,” she said. “If the worst happens and my family gets it, I could honestly say to my family that I did my best to protect them. I am older and it is a concern. This concern is the same for people with younger families. We are all on the same battlefield and everyone is worried, but we have a desire to make things better for those who are sick with this illness.
“And when we see just one critical patient get better, it is a wonderful feeling.”
While most people who get the disease will have mild to moderate symptoms, Brown said the seriousness of the virus shouldn’t be downplayed, either. “I am sick of hearing, ‘it’s just like the flu.’ Some will not get sick, but the ones that do get sick are fighting for their lives without loved ones at their bedside.”
She said everyone can make a difference by following guidelines on masks, social distancing and washing hands frequently. “Respect the disease; it’s not the flu,” she said. “We are all tired of COVID, but it is here and your actions can make a difference.”