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COVID unit nurse documents grief, fear, hope in video blog

AVON, Ind. (WISH) — Hannah Blakley urged her husband to stay with his parents when she was assigned to a COVID unit at IU Health West.

Blakley, a registered nurse, feared she would expose him to the coronavirus and begged him to consider his own safety.

He refused to leave, telling her, “Whatever you’re going to go through is what I’m going to go through.”

This Thanksgiving, Blakley is grateful her husband insisted on staying by her side while she navigated the traumas of frontline health care work.

He sometimes holds her while she cries after returning home from 12-hour shifts in the COVID unit, knowing he can’t do much to ease her fears.

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Blakley worries about the pandemic’s toll on frontline workers’ mental health, the state’s shortage of nurses and whether her patients – all of whom she develops relationships with – will live until her next shift.

“[My husband] just needed to let me sit there and kind of feel what I’m feeling,” she said in a video blog shared on the hospital’s Facebook page.

Blakley recorded and shared a series of vlog entries in April that reached millions of viewers across the nation.

The unfiltered videos offer a glimpse into the grief, fear and hope COVID unit nurses experience daily on the job.

The overwhelming exhaustion and stress are not limited to working hours. 

In several vlogs, Blakley documents her feelings of mounting anxiety while commuting to work and describes her lengthy sanitization process before allowing herself to reenter her home after work.

“Is this the day that I bring COVID home to my husband? Is this the day that I walk in and my patient is on hospice?” she asks, sitting alone in her car. “Am I going to lose it? Is my coworker going to lose it?”

Her videos also capture fleeting moments of joy and a palpable sense gratitude. 

Blakley’s accounts of COVID unit work convey her deep passion for nursing and her ability to recognize hidden blessings amid despair.

Despite mourning the loss of patients, she is still able to give thanks for her fresh set of scrubs, the new coworkers she meets and the time she spends bonding with patients’ families.

In one vlog, she reveals two of her patients improved enough to be discharged. 

During discharge celebrations, Blakley and her colleagues cheer and clap, and play The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun” while wheeling the patient out the door.

Those moments keep her going. 

She hopes pulling back the curtain on the daily realities of her life – the good, the bad and the unthinkable – will serve as a reality check to people continuing to flout public health guidelines.

“There were a lot of elderly people that were healthy, who were dying because of COVID,” Blakley said. “Had the people around them just protected themselves more, wore their masks [and] washed their hands, it might have saved their lives.”

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