Coronavirus: Kiwi nurse in New York describes harrowing job of caring for dying patients

A Kiwi ICU nurse based in New York City has described the harrowing moment she had to relay a message from a person who couldn't say goodbye to a family member that was dying of COVID-19.

Simone Hannah-Clark, originally from Hastings, told The Project it has been emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting working during the crisis, especially when you're with someone who is dying.

The daughter of a patient couldn't say goodbye to her father as he was dying of COVID-19, so Hannah-Clark did it for her.

"I went into the room. I wanted to get it right. I had all my PPE on, the room is loud, I've got the exhaust fans and all that in there, and I tried to get as close as I could and I told him what his daughter had said.

"She wanted me to tell him that he was loved and that he was going to a better place. What a privilege to be able to do that for somebody.

"It should've been her saying that to him and holding his hand, but it was me. I cared deeply about what I was doing, so I hope he felt that."

Hannah-Clark says even though doctors and nurses see people dying often, the COVID-19 crisis feels different.

There's a larger volume of people coming through the doors and everyone is doing double the work they normally do, she says.

Simone Hannah-Clark.
Simone Hannah-Clark. Photo credit: Supplied

At her hospital, she says she's lucky there's enough protective gear for her to do her job, but she has concerns about supply chain issues in the future.

"You take it one day at a time. You take it one minute, one hour at a time and really just try and just focus.

"I try to control the anxiety of it. We have our routines after work, how we change out of our clothes and I bleach my shoes."

She says she can see the end of COVID-19, but it might be a lot later than people are hoping.

"I don't see this ending soon, from what I have been hearing. That's why it's so important to stay home, because if people stay home the virus can't spread. 

"There’s so much we don’t know about this virus but it appears that you can spread when you’re asymptomatic. That means without symptoms."

She says to try and help stop the spread of the virus, she treats herself and everyone else as though they have COVID-19, since she may not know whether or not they're infected.