SALLISAW, Okla. — Marci Warren is a nurse who works at Sequoyah Manor, a nursing home in Sallisaw, Oklahoma.
Since the pandemic began Warren, who is a mother of three, has been sleeping on the couch in her home in efforts to keep her family safe.
“I don't go anywhere but work and home, and grocery shopping for essentials once a week,” Warren said.
Warren has a son who is currently deployed in Iraq. She spends a few minutes connecting with him through text and Facebook before she begins to prepare for the day.
Warren says that she is devoted to her work, caring for the residents at the nursing home. There are times when she is the only one by her patient's side when they pass away and she describes the moment as bitter sweet.
"It's the simple act of holding a hand while they take their last breath, knowing they're not alone and are safe and loved,” Warren said.
Warren has a full day at the facility as a nurse, continuously assessing residents, taking vitals, drawing labs, documenting important patient details, tending to wound care, doing physical assists, speaking with and coordinating care with other staff members and assisting patients with toileting. The residents they care for range from some who are actively dying to others who have a high level of acuity.
Warren says there been major changes in how the facility is now run since COVID-19 began emerging in the states.
Currently no visitors or outside caregivers are allowed to enter the facility. Outside workers who would normally provide support for mental health, physical therapy, dentistry, eye care, etc., are no longer allowed access to the nursing home. Only 12 staff members are allowed in the building to provide care for about 92 residents.
There is currently no community dining. Residents are not allowed to attend outside doctors visits. EMS must to pick up all emergency patients outside of the building in the ambulance bay.
These changes have affected Warren's patients immensely.
“Many are afraid. They're getting depressed, bored and restless. The people we care for are scared for their families. Many don't understand what's going on and feel punished. Some lash out in anger. We are not just providing physical care, we are their support system, constant reassurance and redirection,” Warren said.
Warren says the management at Sequoyah Manner have been phenomenal in how they have responded to protecting their patients during the pandemic.
“They have taken precautions over and above many recommended even by the CDC,” Warren said.
The nursing home staff encourages the families to come see and connect with loved ones from the windows outside of the facility.
The Sequoyah Manor workers still try to implement activities that allow their residents to enjoy their experience in the home in a way that continues to keep everyone safe.
“My administration has gone over and beyond to assure the safety of our residents,” Warren said.
However, Warren admits managing life in the nursing home during the pandemic still takes it’s toll.
“We're exhausted. We are depleted. Our reserves are depleted," Warren said. "My biggest fear is this virus will infiltrate our facility and not having the tools we need to protect everyone."
There is currently a shortage of personal protective equipment in Oklahoma. The administration at the facility says it is doing all it can to apply for PPE items through the state.
The remaining staff are currently working with homemade masks donated by Warren, and a box gloves that are slowly diminishing. Warren hopes that protective N95 masks, protective gowns, hats, and outer shoe covers desperately needed will be accessible to their staff soon.
Warren is a frontline nurse who continues to care for her patients emotional and physical needs, rising above the challenges brought about by the pandemic.
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