‘First Time Through Was Difficult': Health Workers Bracing for a New Surge of COVID Patients

Months after the first surge of hospitalizations in Massachusetts, nurses at Massachusetts General Hospital are prepared as cases spike again

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The nurses at Massachusetts General Hospital have been on the frontlines since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and that's where they'll stay with no end in sight.

"The first time through was difficult. If I could explain it in one way, it was surreal," said nurse James Bradley.

Bradley and Emily Doyle are nurses at MGH. They're now bracing for a second surge while thinking about the last one.

"Everyone was at home, except for us. It was hard. It was tough. I think everyone felt alone," Bradley said.

Right now, 58 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized at MGH, with 16 of them in the ICU. In April, there were 389 people with coronavirus, and 171 of them were getting intensive care.

In the spring, Emily Doyle's neurology floor was converted to care for ventilated ICU patients with more than 130 beds.

"It was a very quick and tumultuous partnership, and it was a saving grace, the camaraderie," she said.

Hospital capacity is a concern at MGH, even as testing, treatments and access to protective equipment have improved. The emotional wellness of hospital employees will be a critical consideration, given the experience the last time around.

"I stayed away from my family. I usually bring my nanny to her doctor's appointments. I didn't get a chance to see her for months," Doyle said.

These health care workers are ready for whatever comes their way, but they're urging people to wear masks if they want to help bring an end to the pandemic.

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