After a year of loss, patients ring in 2021 from Houston COVID-19 ward
(FASTNEWS | HOUSTON) – Shortly after midnight Duc Nguyen sat up in his hospital bed for a video call with his wife. The glow of a television and a street lamp outside his window provided the only light as a nasal cannula delivered oxygen to his lungs.
It was not how the 33-year-old had envisioned welcoming in the new year, but he said he was grateful the United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) in Houston had a vacant bed so he could be treated for pneumonia brought on by COVID-19.
Nguyen said he was confident he would recover, but he predicted the worst days of the pandemic were ahead.
“We are still in for another treat next year,” he said in a raspy voice. “It’s not over yet.”
Similar scenes were playing out across the country as a post-Thanksgiving surge of infections added to the number of patients forced to usher in 2021 alone, confined to a hospital room by a virus that has taken more than 342,000 American lives.
Located in a working-class area of north Houston, UMMC has been hit hard by the waves of cases that slammed into Texas during the summer and fall, exacting an immense physical and emotional toll on nurses such as Tanna Ingraham, who has herself overcome two bouts of COVID-19.
In normal times Ingraham might have rung in the new year sharing drinks with friends. Instead, she was still coming to terms with the sudden death this week of a patient who had just been taken off a ventilator amid signs she was on the mend.
Like her, the patient was 43, and Ingraham choked back tears as she drew the tubes from her body and placed her into a body bag – a task she has grown used to this year. For Ingraham, 2021 and widespread vaccination cannot come soon enough.
“I’m just hoping that at the end of this there is going to be a light because, honestly, that’s the only thing that keeps me going. That and my faith,” she said. “So, 2021 I’m ready.”
This week Reuters followed doctors and nurses as they made their rounds of UMMC’s COVID-19 unit, pausing to check on vital signs and sometimes offering a hug or gripping a hand. Touch, Ingraham said she had learned from her own battles with the disease, is critical to warding off a sense of despair.