Norton Audubon

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Norton Healthcare is seeing another surge in COVID-19 cases across its facilities with 195 active patients fighting the virus. And those on the frontlines are seeing many of these people on the last days of their lives.

Staff members at Norton are exhausted, and they said they don't expect this surge to peak until the end of September.

"I tell them, 'Look, this may lead to your death, first and foremost,'" said Dr. Maroun Ghossein, pulmonary critical care physician at Norton Audubon Hospital.

He has that conversation with patients every time he walks through the doors.

"You're gonna be here a minimum of two weeks and maybe even longer, and it may end up with a tracheostomy, a PEG, and you being fully-dependent on other people to take care of you," he said. "That is the best-case scenario for people in the ICU, unfortunately."

Half of the patients he sees every day have COVID-19, and it's taking a toll.

"I started feeling anxiety and I felt like I needed some kind of help," Ghossein said. "And that help had gotten me on medications that have helped a lot, dealing with the anxiety of the situation and maybe some underlying depression."

He's not the only one, either.

"I'm tired," said Gary Rayborn, a respiratory therapist at Norton Brownsboro. "I think all of us are tired and exhausted and mentally just broken down, I think, from everything that's going on."

He started his day knowing he'd have to put 22 patients on a ventilator. Eighteen of them have COVID-19.

"It's chaotic," Rayborn said. "You finish with one patient, you start with the next patient. We've put three people on the vent. They were going on nitric. We had to prone them, lay them on their belly, and it's just one after another unfortunately. It's grim for all of those people."

It's at the end of his day when he realizes many of those people had their last day.

"You really have time to think about how the families outside the window just waving probably one last time, and they'll go to the courtyard and look in the windows just hoping and praying that something would change," Rayborn said. "And things aren't changing very much."

Another Norton nurse said they have to be there for each other, and offers a piece of advice for those who find themselves in the hospital.

"Just be patient and kind to each other and to healthcare workers. We're having a very hard time with all of it," Tiffany Hardesty said. "It's emotional being on the floor and seeing everybody so sick and sometimes it's just that hug that they need to keep on going through their day and just being there beside them and knowing they're not by themselves."

Both Ghossein and Rayborn said a lot of patients they see are not vaccinated, and they end up wishing they'd gotten the vaccine.

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