South Florida nurses joined in a nationwide protest Wednesday morning calling for more protection on the job in their battle with the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 200 demonstrations were planned at hospitals in 16 states across the country. Around a dozen nurses and personnel showed up for one rally that took place outside the VA Hospital in downtown Miami, where records show one employee has died from COVID-19 so far this year.
“We want the testing, the tracing, and the talking, we need to know how many people are infected (among) the nurses," said Eddie Cruz, a spokesman for National Nurses United.
The demonstrations are part of the group’s National Day of Action, calling for more protective equipment to be used in the fight against COVID-19.
“We’re low on wipes, the wipes that sanitize things, we have to ration those," said Cheryl Clarke, a surgery nurse at the hospital.
In addition, the group is also hoping to push Congress to pass a new stimulus packaged aimed at supporting health and economic recovery known as the Heroes Act.
Millicent Bowerbank, who retired last week as a critical care nurse, said she worries for her former colleagues.
“I’ve seen where patients are placed in areas. They’re not in isolation, they’re not in the negative pressure rooms. You are exposed to them and sometimes you don’t have an N95 mask," she said.
NBC 6 got an exclusive look inside the world some medical professionals are dealing with in their battle with the virus.
Lucadet “Luc” Vedrine describes himself as a “man of the book” but he says these past months have tested his limits.
“Until my time comes, I’m protected and I just hope this (pandemic) will be gone, that this will leave us,” Vedrine told NBC 6 after finishing another hectic day in the intensive care unit at Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke Pines.
Vedrine told us COVID-19 positive patients are in six units at the hospital. He spends his time monitoring them and trying to wean them off of oxygen over time as they recover. It’s a delicate balance for patients close to going over.
“I take all the steps that I possibly can. That’s why I’m in prayer. That’s all I can do on my side and I leave the rest to God because I have to treat my patients,” Vedrine said.
Nearly the entire time, he wears a full set of personal protective equipment: gowns, gloves, masks and face-shields. He describes it as a hot sauna.
Maria Sulayman, a critical care nurse from Jackson Health’s rapid response unit, has already lived that experience.
She tested positive for the virus in June and so did her children. All three have since recovered.
“I’ve been short of breath pretty much all day,” Sulayman told NBC 6 after finishing her shift at 8:30 at night.
The hectic long hours can take a toll physically and emotionally.
Both Vedrine and Sulayman tell NBC 6 their hospital teams and management have been very supportive.
If they feel abandoned, it’s by the many people outside of the hospital disregarding mask orders and social distancing requirements.
“Whether you think it’s real or not, I’m in a hospital, I’m a real person. These people are real people in the hospital and they are definitely sick and dying before us,” Vedrine said.
“I’m just urging…I’m just urging the public that this isn’t fake,” Sulayman said. “This is really serious.”