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ICU nurses take on emotional role amid COVID-19 pandemic

ICU NURSES

"I don't think anyone should ever die alone," Roni

Roni Kappler, ICU nurse

SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - Roni Kappler is an ICU nurse at Unity Point Health-St. Luke's in Sioux City, and she said death is not new to ICU nurses.

"Everybody is somebody's somebody. They're somebody's loved one, they're somebody's sister, somebody's mom, dad. And if they can't be there, at least we can be there," said Kappler .

Kappler said it was the amount of death they were seeing at the start of the pandemic, and the new restrictions of no visitors, taking a large toll on their emotions.

"Restriction of 'I'm sorry, you're loved one is dying, but you cannot see them.' It's a tough conversation to have with people," said Kappler.

Kappler said more times than she can count, she's had to step in to be a patient's loved one, and be by their side in their final moments.

"It's an unwritten rule in my world. No one dies alone, doesn't matter how busy it is, you find the time and resources and you're with that person the entire time that they're passing," said Kappler.

Kappler said in those moments she usually played music, prayed, talked, or just sat with them. She said most of the time they were incoherent, but she knew how important just being there was.

"I don't think it's fair that I'm the last person to be with this person, it should be a loved one of theirs's, but I'm just glad somebody was there," said Kappler.

She said typically an ICU patient prior to the pandemic would only be there for a week or less, but with COVID, it's not uncommon for patients to be there for up to two months.

She said in that time, she grew closer to the patients, making their last moments so much harder.

"There are many times, you cry at work, you cry on the way home. I have a new rule, where I have to either cry before I leave work or I cry at home, it's not safe to cry and drive," said Kappler.

Overall she said she likes to look at the bright side, and appreciate that during this time she was able to really use her 'superpower', caring for people physically and emotionally, when their loved ones could not.

Leslie London

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