Working shifts against dying

Nurse Meryl Meister (left) with a colleague

“What is going wrong in our society? Doesn’t one of you care about your neighbors? ”Says Meryl Meister.

(Photo: dpa)

Stuttgart Meryl Meister speaks a lot to her patients. At the beginning of her shift, she greets them and introduces herself to them. Then she explains to them what she is doing. Step by step. That it surrounds their bodies so that they are not sore. That she checked the tubes protruding from their bodies. That she refills the many syringes with medication that are gradually injected into the veins. Intensive contact with her patients is what drives her, says the 28-year-old. Most of their patients are not even conscious.

Meryl Meister is at the forefront of fighting the coronavirus. Protective goggles, FFP3 masks, hoods, gowns and gloves are their riot gear. It is a daily rebellion against death, divided into a three-shift system. The young woman works as a nurse in the corona intensive care unit of the Stuttgart Clinic. A hermetically sealed department – if you want to get out, you even have to disinfect the soles of your shoes.

It is 7.14 p.m. that evening and Meryl Meister is on late shift. The young nurse is standing in patient room 3004 and is worried. In the middle of the small room is an old man. He is surrounded by flashing screens and humming devices, covered only with a towel, his chest hardly noticeably rises and falls.

A good two weeks ago, the 77-year-old came to the clinic with a corona infection, and five days ago he had to be put into an artificial coma. Since then, they have been twisting and turning his slack body in the same rhythm, 16 hours in his stomach, eight hours in his back to support his breathing. But now he no longer jumps well on it. The lungs are no longer as stable, says Meryl Meister.

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The nurse already knows this. The patients are almost always conscious when they arrive. After four or five days, the condition often worsens. Most of them would have to be artificially ventilated. Many only wake up after weeks. Some no longer. According to experts, every third person dies in the intensive care unit.

“Corona is unpredictable”

It’s strangely quiet in the small department, almost peaceful. The ventilators pump quietly in time, the devices hum, and regular beeps are heard. Nurses scurry through dark treatment rooms that are only lit by the glow of the monitors.

On the roller table next to the bed in room 3004 lies a little doll, a guardian angel. Meryl Meister changes the 77-year-old’s full catheter bag, refills his medication and draws his blood to check the oxygen content in it. She can’t do more than that. “Corona is a fucking disease. Unpredictable. And there is no solution, ”she says. “It’s always a long wait.”

A Covid 19 patient is in an artificial coma and is ventilated

Meryl Meister currently looks after two patients per shift, three at night.

(Photo: dpa)

She has been working in the intensive care unit for six years. She likes her job because they spend more time with their patients than anywhere else. But the virus is draining your strength. Germany is already in the fourth wave, and many doctors and nurses are on the verge of exhaustion. If you ask Meryl Meister about the past few months, she says: “I’ve never seen so many people die.” And winter is still to come. “You often stand in front of it and can no longer.”

There are currently more than 3500 corona patients in intensive care units nationwide. In the past seven days alone, between November 13th and 20th, their number rose by more than 600. In many rural and urban districts, the number of free intensive care beds is dwindling, in some districts there are no longer any free beds available at all.

Six of them were on the Covid station at the Stuttgart Clinic last Wednesday. Four are artificially civil servants – and three of them are doing really badly, says Meryl Meister. All six are not vaccinated. The unreasonable makes the nurse angry, even if she doesn’t let her patients feel it.

Sometimes she gets angry at home

“I look after every patient here equally,” she says. Sometimes she gets angry only at home. “What is going wrong in our society? Does anyone care about their neighbors? ”She cannot understand that there is still so much discussion in politics, and she can no longer watch talk shows. The current explosion in numbers has long been predictable, she says.

Jan Steffen Jürgensen, medical director of the clinic, speaks of a déjà vu experience. He now wants to expand the intensive care places and expects even more patients than last winter. Treacherous: The number of intensive care patients is two to three weeks behind the number of infections. “It’s like a sluggish supertanker – even if they hit now, it will still drift in the wrong direction.”

Meryl Meister currently looks after two patients per shift, three at night. But as soon as a colleague falls ill, the care key can no longer be kept. “It is harder to go to work, it is physically and mentally demanding,” she says.

Separate area for Covid-19 patients

“Nobody wants to die alone,” says Meryl Meister. She hides that on duty.

(Photo: dpa)

Nevertheless, she returns to the front every day, throws herself into her protective suit and fights against the virus, against dying. The team is great, the work welds together. She tells of small, beautiful moments in everyday life, of a patient’s smile when she felt better after the coma, of people who write cards to her after recovery.

If their patients are then worse off, the relatives are contacted. To come soon and say goodbye. “Nobody wants to die alone,” says Meryl Meister. She hides that on duty. When she takes off her smock at the end of her shift, she takes the ballast home with her. “You never forget to close a body bag the first time.” She’s been sleeping badly lately. But she doesn’t want to forget her patients either, she says.

More: RKI reports more than 42,000 new infections – Biontech boss considers vaccine to be very effective despite breakthroughs

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