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‘I was scared out of my mind:’ North Alabama nurses open up about the fight against coronavirus

WAAY 31 spoke with two nurses at Huntsville Hospital about their fears, challenges and hopes after battling on the Covid-19 frontlines.

Posted: Dec 29, 2020 12:16 PM

Health care workers do not stop for the holidays, especially those who have been caring for coronavirus patients now for more than nine months straight.

Recently, two registered nurses at Huntsville Hospital who have been on the front lines since day one, opened up candidly to WAAY 31 about their challenges and fears while handling coronavirus patients along with their hopes for the future.

"When April came around we were like deer in the headlights," described Tia Marie Stevenson, a registered nurse at Huntsville Hospital. 

"Chaos, just pure chaos," added Elise Foster, also a registered nurse and charge nurse at Huntsville Hospital.

Foster detailed the early days when Covid-19 patients began to arrive at the hospital. In her words, the initial days were hectic, to put it mildly.

"It was fear because nobody knew what this was. You were getting email after email policy was changing," recalled Foster.

Foster knew then and there, they were about to be in a medical fight of a lifetime. 

"We don't close units down for the flu. We don't cancel elective surgeries for the flu," said Foster. "This disease is extremely real and honestly is scary. What it does to a person we still don't know everything about it."

For both Foster and Stevenson, the early days were not only challenging professionally, but also personally. Long hours, uncertainty and coping with dying patients created a physical and mental burden for life at home, too.

"There were several of us that did send our families away. I sent mine to my parents down in South Alabama for a good 4 to 5 weeks in April. And it was hard," said Foster. "I've gone home many mornings crying and I know a lot of my coworkers have, but we do lean on each other."

"A lot of times our families don't really understand . Yeah, we could talk to them about it, but they don't understand because they're not here." added Stevenson. "This is very emotional and sometimes you just wanna hug that's it."

Stevenson noted that the hospital staff as a whole eventually learned to be flexible and many times make immediate changes as medical guidelines changed at a moment's notice.

"It's kind of forced us to you know work on how we adjust to every situation because unpredictable happens every day." said Stevenson.

Both nurses also opened up about losing patients due to Covid-19. They describe much the same as losing a close friend.

"I have had more nurses in rooms holding hands of people that are dying that I've ever seen," said Foster.

"You want to be there with a loved one to hold her hand, but I want people to understand that's what we're doing and that's not going to make up for the fact that you're not there with mom or dad or your brother or a sister, but we are trying our hardest."

Then, there are the good days - the days when coronavirus patients are released. Patients in recovery are music to the hearts of these nurses.

"You get attached to them - a lot of them especially the ones who have been here for a while," said Stevenson. "Yeah, it's like family."

It takes very special people to put in grueling hours with very few breaks during a pandemic in a battle against a mysterious disease, but these two nurses hold their heads up as they continue the fight on the frontlines. A battle that does not appear to be ending anytime soon,  

They take the time to lift each other up and give credit to those serving right their with them.

"I cannot even describe what all these nurses have done," Foster proudly exclaimed. "They have impressed me more than anybody."

Now with new vaccines to help in the fight, these nurses have become cautionsly optimistic about the days ahead.

"There's a light at the end of this," said Stevenson. "If we all work together, wear our masks and do what we're supposed to be doing, we'll get through this."

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 439442

Reported Deaths: 6657
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson644371007
Mobile31435569
Madison28158217
Tuscaloosa21492275
Montgomery19873332
Shelby19248132
Baldwin17128189
Lee13137107
Morgan12594142
Etowah12070181
Calhoun11496206
Marshall10420123
Houston8988164
Limestone832081
Cullman8257124
Elmore8183110
DeKalb7871107
Lauderdale7847107
St. Clair7808130
Talladega6445112
Walker6028183
Jackson599145
Colbert548694
Blount546286
Autauga535862
Coffee460764
Dale409685
Franklin374150
Russell354215
Chilton344373
Covington338580
Escambia334544
Tallapoosa3143109
Dallas312996
Chambers303470
Clarke298036
Pike262431
Lawrence253355
Marion253161
Winston233342
Bibb222348
Geneva210247
Marengo208231
Pickens199531
Hale184944
Barbour180538
Fayette177829
Butler173160
Cherokee165131
Henry159525
Monroe152021
Randolph145536
Washington141727
Clay129746
Crenshaw123745
Macon121937
Cleburne121525
Lamar119922
Lowndes114836
Wilcox107922
Bullock103328
Perry99918
Conecuh97822
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63418
Choctaw51924
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 705876

Reported Deaths: 8819
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby783871172
Davidson72746692
Knox39988439
Hamilton35697337
Rutherford34042295
Unassigned23786134
Williamson22041144
Sumner18744232
Out of TN1629183
Montgomery15092149
Wilson14797164
Sullivan12932220
Blount12321133
Washington12148204
Maury11264131
Bradley1116398
Sevier10787121
Putnam10170152
Madison9309183
Robertson788687
Hamblen7213117
Anderson6983114
Greene6749115
Tipton636869
Coffee576982
Gibson5739116
Dickson557082
Cumberland554476
Bedford543091
Roane532481
Lawrence522169
McMinn520374
Carter5191116
Warren510455
Loudon506351
Jefferson493378
Dyer485286
Monroe470363
Hawkins458672
Franklin422865
Fayette412651
Obion405882
Rhea390657
Lincoln387246
Marshall356538
Cocke355760
Cheatham348531
Weakley345148
Henderson337059
Campbell336440
Giles332476
Carroll317160
White316946
Hardeman314754
Hardin305450
Lauderdale298834
Macon293951
Wayne270124
Henry267858
Overton259546
McNairy247142
DeKalb247042
Haywood245047
Marion235332
Smith234830
Trousdale230715
Scott229732
Hickman228935
Claiborne227432
Fentress216734
Grainger216039
Johnson205034
Morgan194616
Crockett183138
Bledsoe178011
Chester178039
Unicoi170045
Cannon161420
Lake158421
Decatur148828
Polk148517
Union144725
Grundy143122
Sequatchie141119
Humphreys137217
Benton133835
Lewis130921
Meigs118216
Stewart111220
Jackson105923
Clay96526
Perry95925
Houston94824
Moore8349
Pickett69020
Van Buren6738
Hancock4187

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