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Inside an ICU, as nurses celebrate National Nurses’ Week during a pandemic

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 6:56 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - This year, multiple companies are giving out discounts and free items to nurses to celebrate National Nurses’ Week. The annual event, which ended Wednesday, celebrates nurses.

For the first time since the pandemic began KCRG-TV9′s cameras got an inside look at an intensive care unit. The pandemic has brought stress and the unknown for those working inside. Especially for nurses celebrating the last day of National Nurses’ Week.

Nurses are coping with a lot of trauma the past year. From watching seemingly healthy people not survive to family members unable to say their final good-byes.

Michelle Tangeman, who is an ICU nurse at Unity Point-Health St. Lukes in Cedar Rapids, said she’s had her fair share of breakdowns during the pandemic trying to cope with the trauma.

”I would, you know, just go straight to bed and that’s all you could do,” she said. “And my husband would be like, ‘how can I help you through this?’ and sometimes all you can do is shower, go to bed and just sleep it off.”

Amy Frazier, who is also an ICU nurse at UnityPoint Health-St. Lukes in Cedar Rapids, said she knows the heartbreak well. She said she has watched families and patients unable to say their goodbyes.

“It’s just difficult,” Frazier said. “You know, you find yourself in tears with the patient as they’re talking to a family member because you just feel so much empathy for them.”

Tangeman said the experience for her was unimaginable. But, she also said her first support system is the other nurses.

“I mean, I didn’t go through it alone,” Tangeman said. “Definitely having everyone there to support me was key to get through it and be able to reflect on it.”

She said those other nurses understand what she went through the past year.

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