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‘It is an extremely isolating illness’: Carilion frontline workers share their COVID pandemic stories

10 News was not allowed inside for safety precautions, but frontline workers took time to answer our questions

We're going inside the ICU at Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

ROANOKE, Va. – It’s been an unimaginable year for the staff here inside the intensive care unit at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. While we were not allowed inside for safety reasons, they took the time to answer our questions about life on the frontlines over the last year.

“I sent eight people to the morgue in 11 days,” Dr. Frank Biscardi said.

Because of safety concerns, Carilion passed along our questions to some of its frontline workers asking what it’s been like for them over the last year.

“It is an extremely isolating illness. Sometimes people come through the doors in the ICU is the last thing they remember they will come to us and not have another memory, and they may or may not ever speak to their families, again, and it’s a very lonely place,” RN Julie Amoroso said.

Most tell the story of the recent delta surge, and how quickly it spread among the unvaccinated population in southwest Virginia.

It’s been distressing to see how poorly people respond to therapy once they get COVID and often we’re just doing supportive care and that’s hard when your medicines don’t work that well when the patients are deathly ill and no one’s getting better,” Biscardi said.

“We’ve had people right before we’re about to intubate them just begging and wishing and they go ahead and get the vaccine and unfortunately at that point it’s too late,” RN Devon Smith said.

As vaccination rates remain relatively low in our region, providers agree that those still choosing not to get the shot are taking a potentially life-threatening risk.

“It’s very easy to think of yourself as a healthy individual and be one of the higher percent, that if you get this it’s going to be like having the flu and you move on don’t take that chance please,” RN Sarah Curran said.

But they also agree that the vaccine is providing a glimmer of hope, like saving hundreds if not thousands of lives from being lost in our region.

“It’s really been a gift from God to get this vaccine. And that was the best thing that I’ve that’s happened in the last two years,” Biscardi said.

About the Author:

Annie Schroeder joined the 10 News team as a reporter in June 2020 and is no stranger to Southwest Virginia.