Ohio health care workers warn of ‘astronomical’ COVID-19 pediatric surge

Across the country, federal data shows that nearly 2,000 children are currently hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. In recent weeks, with the viral wave in the South finally showing signs of abating, the number of pediatric hospital admissions has fallen by more than 30%. Yet, on average, more than 250 children with the virus are still hospitalized every day.

In Ohio, which currently has the second highest number of pediatric COVID-19 hospitals, the child crisis remains at a critical level.

Dayton Children’s Hospital frontline workers told ABC News they have seen a “record number” of virus-positive patients since the highly contagious delta strain hit the state this summer.

“We’re seeing an increase in our count that is astronomical,” said Chief Nurse Will Andres. “[It’s] quite difficult to keep one’s head above water, day in, day out.”

As of Wednesday, more than 210 children with COVID-19 have been hospitalized statewide.

“We’re seeing more and more positive results. We’re seeing more and more people come in and request testing. It’s just overwhelming,” said Amy Temple, a pediatric emergency department.

Earlier this month, the CEOs of Ohio’s six children’s hospitals teamed up with the Ohio Children’s Hospitals Association to sound the alarm about the significant increase in the number of children hospitalized with the coronavirus.

“This is a reality for us today. And it threatens the capacity of our pediatric safety net in ways we’ve never experienced before,” the group wrote in a letter.

Many frontline workers reported that children appear to be getting sicker than at earlier times in the pandemic – especially adolescents who have not been vaccinated.

A healthcare professional prepares to enter the room of a COVID-19 patient in the ICU of Van Wert County Hospital in Van Wert, Ohio on November 20, 2020.

“Some of these kids get very sick. They need extra help to breathe. We need a lot of extra intervention, whether it’s putting in a breathing tube and putting on a ventilator or just wearing a mask to get oxygen and ventilation.” Hilary O’Neill, a respiratory therapist at Dayton Children’s Hospital, explained. “There are certainly a lot sicker than we’d ever seen before.”

The influx of patients in need of care has left some frontline workers feeling overwhelmed, overworked and mentally exhausted.

“Right now I’m emotionally drained. Kids are getting sicker and sicker, and we’re busy, and every day we come in and there just doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel,” Temple said.

Michele Nadolsky, an emergency room clinical team leader and 28-year hospital veteran, added that she feels an “overwhelming sense of defeat”, especially now that a “large” number of nurses are leaving the company, resulting in staffing levels. . deficits.

While serious illness in children remains “uncommon,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, the potential for long-term consequences in children who test positive for the virus is still worrisome.

“One of our biggest concerns is what will happen in six months to a year after the child recovers from the acute illness of COVID-19, and what kind of symptoms or long-term effects it will have on them. as they continue to grow and mature,” Nadolsky said.

Another worrying trend, one doctor said, is the remarkable number of children who often have to be hospitalized alone because their parents are battling COVID-19.

Dayton Children’s Hospital

“I think the kids with COVID infections usually have another family member, often an adult, who is also sick with COVID,” said Amit Vohra, a pediatric intensivist at the hospital. “Those parents can’t visit the kids in the hospital. Often there’s no one with them for a few hours a day. So those are the times when I think our nurses step in to give the kids the emotional support they need… These children are often short of breath, they have chest pains, they are out of breath, they are anxious, they worry, “Are they going to die?”

The hardest part of it all, according to Karen Davis, a pediatric intensive care nurse, has seen so many children suffer from the disease.

“I’m a mom and a grandmother, so I feel for the kids who are having such a hard time… I’m taking care of them the way I would want them to take care of my child,” an emotional Davis said. “One of the biggest fears parents have in taking care of their children is that they may die and they may not leave the hospital alive.”

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