ICU Nurse Shares Experience Losing Patients as County Reports Deadliest Week of Pandemic So Far

With 102 deaths reported this week through Thursday, the county topped its previous weekly record which was set last week

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For the second week in a row, San Diego County set a new record of reported COVID-19-related deaths. It’s a sobering reminder that the virus is spreading quickly.

Last week (Saturday - Friday), the county reported 96 deaths. Through this Thursday, there have already been 102 reported (Deaths are typically reported to the county days or weeks after they actually occur).

Weekly COVID-19-related deaths reported in San Diego County.
San Diego County
Weekly COVID-19-related deaths reported in San Diego County.

NBC 7 spoke with Amber Kirk, a registered nurse who works in the Intensive Care Unit at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, about her experience treating COVID-19 patients, including the challenges she’s faced losing patients to the virus.

“When your patient passes away, we (healthcare workers) take it hard. We want to do more, sometimes we can’t do more, and we've done everything that we can,” explained Kirk.

More than 1,200 San Diegans have died fighting COVID-19, leaving families and loved ones mourning their loss. Kirk said losing a patient weighs heavy on her and her colleagues.

“We do see a lot of death in the ICU, but it never gets easier for us. Nurses are strong, but we break down too,” Kirk said.

On multiple occasions, she’s had to have painful conversations with patient’s families, and in worst-case scenarios, she’s had to break the news about their loved one's death.

“I let them know, I’ve been taking care of your mom or your dad. Often times they already know us. I ask them, ‘Are you in a safe place right now to sit down? Are you driving?’ And this can be any time of the day; at night, early morning, sometimes the patient’s family is sleeping because they’ve been up all night worrying,” Kirk said.

Kirk said she and her colleagues are treating more than 120 COVID-19 patients every day. They’ve opened a third ICU at Sharp Grossmont Hospital to keep up with the surge in cases.

“I’ve never been so tired. Mentally, I am exhausted. Physically, exhausted,” Kirk said.

But above all, she said she’s determined.

"We’re determined to keep wearing our PPE, to keep admitting the patients, treating them and seeing those rewarding results of discharging someone home who actually beat it (COVID-19). We want to see more of those occasions,” she said.  

Kirk is encouraging the community to follow CDC guidelines; wear the masks, physical distance and celebrate the holidays online instead of in-person to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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