Let us walk into the ICU and reveal to you the final battle against COVID-19

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Visit to Melbourne ICU ward

Key points:
Intensive care unit works around the clock to maintain the lives of COVID-19 patients


Now the ICU ward is more prepared than it was at the beginning


ICU experts worry that we have not reached the peak of the second wave

Do you know how much unknown fatigue hides behind the masks, masks and protective clothing of the doctors and nurses in the ICU ward of Footscray Hospital?


Research nurse Sam Bates told reporters: “Wearing these gears all day makes you tired.”


"Wearing this mask and hood makes me a headache."


"But often busy with work, without even realizing how much it is starting to affect your body."


Ms. Bates is not complaining, just telling the truth.


Employees here rarely complain, even after working 12 hours a day-usually working more than 12 hours.


Forbes McGain, deputy director of the ICU, told reporters: "When you rest, you will still be alone because we must ensure that we are isolated from each other."


"You just hope that when you go home, your family will not get COVID19 from you."


When the reporter visited Footscray Hospital in western Melbourne at night, there were 3 confirmed patients in the ICU ward, and one "sCOVID" patient-suspected of being infected with COVID19.


Dr. McGahn said: "This patient has severe symptoms. As you can see, he is using a ventilator."


"He is now in a stable condition, but if there is no such ventilator, it must be a serious situation."


However, the patient died three days ago.

"The rapid increase in intensive care units"

The deceased coronavirus patient was not accompanied by family members, only nurses.


If requested by the patient’s family, the nurse will help them say goodbye via video call.


Ms. Bates said: "Our intensive care unit soon filled up. It started to suffer."


"Really, it's frustrating. Our staff feel anxious."


The patient lives on a ventilator and is covered by a plastic cover, which adds a layer of protection to the staff.


The hood is designed by researchers at the hospital and the University of Melbourne to capture infectious particles and then filter the air, so it is a layer of safety for medical staff.

Dr. McGahn said that he cannot afford to lose any medical staff at present.


He said: "In such an environment, if an employee tests positive, then we need to figure out who they are working with, and then eventually have to isolate all employees for 14 days."

"This is a very big problem."
The nurses pay close attention to everything that happens in the ward, from big things like the patient's health to wiping every small item they pass to others.
The skin behind their ears is red and inflamed due to endless wear and tear caused by the elastic bands on the masks.

"I don't think we have reached the top yet"

The rate of community transmission in Victoria is now higher than in the first wave-employees working here worry.

There are new cases every day, and after about two weeks, more people will eventually enter the ICU.


Dr. McGahn said: “I think more and more people are infected with COVID-19, so more people in general hospitals are receiving intensive care.”


"This is undoubtedly an additional burden for the staff in the intensive care unit, nursing and medical care and other personnel."


Courtnay Bisson, an intensive care nurse, feels pressured, but is not too worried now-March and April are a trial run for her.


She said: "I think there are still some concerns because I am not sure whether we have reached the peak of the second surge."


"But I think we are fully prepared for what may happen. In fact, we are doing everything in the safest way, and we all support each other."


Critical care workers are classified as "frontline personnel", but if there is anything, they are more like the end of the line-the end of the line you don't want to cross.

Experience ICU firsthand

Due to COVID-19, this is not the first time I have entered the intensive care unit.

The difference this time is that I am not the one the doctor is worried about.


In March, when I had COVID-3, compared with the patients I see now, I had no flu-like symptoms at all.


Four days after the test was positive, I received intensive care at the Royal Alfred Hospital in Sydney for lung X-rays and heart scans as an additional precaution.


My blood oxygen level has not improved, and my heart rate is high, which makes my nurse in the isolation hotel worry.


Despite the shortness of breath, chest tightness and fever, I don't think it is necessary to go to the hospital, but I cannot argue with the nurse's logic.


The nurse told me: "There is a bed, so you can go."


"And since we don't know what we are going to deal with, it's better just in case."


just in case.


Before being sent back to the isolation hotel, I only spent one night in the ICU and two nights in the normal COVID-19 ward.


My discharge certificate stated that I had cough, fever and mild hypoxia-when my body did not have enough oxygen.


But I don’t need any medical equipment, such as a ventilator.


My COVID journey was painful, but it was still very different from the man at Footscray Hospital.


He is one of the few people in Australia who cannot recover-19% of COVID-85 patients in intensive care will actually recover.


In the UK, this figure is 60% and in the US it is only 30%.


I found that this statistic is even more terrifying than other statistics in this epidemic.


Your geographic location - and how your country responds to the flu pandemic - is the main factor in determining whether you will die.


But even in countries like Australia, there are still more deaths.

Provide fighter meeting for critically ill patients

I spent the past week in some of Melbourne's largest hospitals, discussing with researchers how they can better help critically ill patients in the second wave of treatment.


Since a series of clinical trials were proposed and approved in the coronavirus that appeared to have subsided that month, there are now more treatment options.


I hope they can provide many fighters that are not available before for critically ill patients.


At St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, researchers are studying the use of the blood-thinning drug heparin to get people out of ventilators as quickly as possible.


Barry Dixon, the intensive care doctor in charge of the study, explained that patients who used COVID-19 on a ventilator did not inject drugs to prevent blood clotting, but inhaled them in the form of gas.


He said: "Before the COVID outbreak, we conducted a study on inhaled heparin in patients with lung injury caused by pneumonia. Similar to COVID patients, we found that inhaling heparin in people can speed up their recovery."


"So we already know that heparin is beneficial to patients with this type of pneumonia, but heparin also binds to COVID, so we think it can also inactivate COVID."


It is not a vaccine or a proven treatment, but it is better than nothing.


Dr. Dixon said: "I hope that our patients will be better now than they were a few months ago. At that time, we did not know whether these therapies were effective."

Develop treatments

Meanwhile, at Austin Health, an intensive care nurse added an intravenous drip to an elderly woman’s bedside.


The patient is in the negative air chamber to ensure that infectious air particles do not escape.


As part of a clinical trial conducted by the University of Melbourne Surgery, the intravenous injection contains zinc chloride to see if zinc can help COVID patients who are deteriorating to recover quickly.


Urologist Joseph Ischia told reporters: "I would like to know whether zinc can improve the oxygenation level of patients."


"We are not saying that you can use zinc to save lives, because it requires a very large experiment."


"What we want to see is whether [people receiving zinc] need less oxygen when [intensive care unit] is hospitalized, or whether they cannot enter the intensive care unit, or whether zinc can help them get out of the intensive care unit more quickly. "


For researchers studying the coronavirus, the second wave has only one small positive effect-the ability to conduct clinical trials on new patients, test and develop treatments for future patients.


More clinical trials are underway.


At Monash Medical Center, hematologist Dr. Zoe McQuilten is using plasma obtained from recovered COVID-19 patients.


She wants to see if giving newly infected people's plasma and the antibodies it contains can help strengthen their immune system.


The Therapeutic Goods Administration has also approved provisional approval for the use of remdisivir (the first drug proven to be effective against this virus) in patients.


Australia’s current existing national drug stocks are still sufficient.


Dr. Ischia said: "We always hope that the next generation will be better than the previous generation."


"The next generation (after the first generation) of COVID-19 patients is very close.


"We hope to improve in 3 to 6 months by conducting these studies now."

Prepare more for ICU patients

Not only can more treatments (even experimental treatments) be carried out, but the hospital is also better prepared in terms of equipment.


The flattening of the curve provided the hospital with much-needed time to expand its ICU wards and train more intensive care doctors and nurses.


Stephen Warrillow, director of the intensive care unit at Austin Health, said: "We are all concerned about the number of patients going to the intensive care unit."


"I think we are in the early stages of ICU establishment, and we certainly hope to see more patients receive intensive care, which is likely to happen in the next few days to several weeks.


"It is difficult to determine how long it will last."


The reporter visited the Austin Health Care Bureau. The staff is converting the wards of general hospitals into COVID wards, because the situation is expected to increase.


"Under normal circumstances, we will manage 23 (intensive care) patients, but we can double that very, very quickly, we can manage up to 100 patients, and have more time to organize ourselves,"


Dr. Warrillow said: "We are ready."

Seeing all these preparations made me realize how far we have come in just six months.


As early as when I contracted the virus, there was collective anxiety due to fear of the unknown and unpreparedness-when we were worried that our hospitals would overspend like hospitals in New York and Italy.


That didn't happen then, and medical professionals are working tirelessly to make sure it won't happen this time.

Source: ABC NewsZoey translation


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