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'I lose 2 patients a shift... Suddenly their lungs collapse'

‘I was wrong’: Anguished nurses tell of unvaccinated patients’ deathbed regrets

‘Their eyes bulge out of their sockets as they try to get more oxygen’: In TV interviews, nurses at Beilinson hospital despair that people still refusing COVID-19 vaccine

  • Nurse Maysoon Makladeh of Petah Tikva's Beilinson Medical Center (Screencapture/Channel 12)
    Nurse Maysoon Makladeh of Petah Tikva's Beilinson Medical Center (Screencapture/Channel 12)
  • Nurse Maysoon Makladeh prepares for a shift in the coroanvirus ward of Petah Tikva's Beilinson Medical Center (Screencapture/Channel 12)
    Nurse Maysoon Makladeh prepares for a shift in the coroanvirus ward of Petah Tikva's Beilinson Medical Center (Screencapture/Channel 12)
  • Nurses monitor patients in the coronavirus ward at Petah Tikva's Beilinson Medical Center (Screencapture/Channel 12)
    Nurses monitor patients in the coronavirus ward at Petah Tikva's Beilinson Medical Center (Screencapture/Channel 12)
  • Nurse Miri Shem-Ad of Petah Tikva's Beilinson Medical Center (Screencapture/Channel 12)
    Nurse Miri Shem-Ad of Petah Tikva's Beilinson Medical Center (Screencapture/Channel 12)

The vast majority of seriously ill COVID-19 patients at Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Medical Center are unvaccinated. For nurses Miri Shem-Ad and Maysoon Makladeh, it is painful to watch the often-avoidable tragedy as patients wilt under the virus.

The two nurses spoke to Channel 12 news in interviews broadcast Saturday, recounting the regrets of those who chose not to get vaccinated, and their own frustrations in dealing with a population that appears to refuse to take the ongoing pandemic seriously.

“I don’t know if people know what a person looks like when they’re like a fish out of water. Their eyes bulge out of their sockets as they try to get more oxygen, but oxygen won’t come in,” Shem-Ad said in an attempt to describe the suffering of severe coronavirus patients.

“I lose two patients in a shift on average… They get up to go to the bathroom feeling they’re ready to go home and suddenly their lungs collapse and they have no air,” she said.

Most are unvaccinated.

“I have a lot of frustration because I know for certain that if they had been vaccinated they wouldn’t have reached such a state,” said Makladeh, recounting her interaction with an unvaccinated patient who is now suffering organ failure.

“I pray for him, we keep giving him our all, but there’s now a way to prevent it. It pains me that people don’t take advantage of that,” she said.

Nurse Maysoon Makladeh of Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Medical Center (Screencapture/Channel 12)

It’s a view shared by Shem-Ad, who said their frustration does not affect the treatment the unvaccinated get.

“When I see a woman my age that needs to be connected to oxygen, my heart goes out to her regardless of the vaccine,” she said.

She recounted how another patient begged her not to leave him alone as the end neared.

“We fought to save him for a few days, but in the end, he understood that his time was up. He grabbed me and pulled me closer and said, ‘Don’t leave me alone.’

“For a long time, I stroked his forehead and told again and again: ‘You are not alone, I’m with you, everything is okay,'” she said. “I repeated this until he closed his eyes.”

Nurse Miri Shem-Ad of Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Medical Center (Screencapture/Channel 12)

After a period in which new daily cases declined to low double and even single digits, Israel has faced a resurgence in infections since June that has seen morbidity hit its highest levels in months.

According to the latest Health Ministry figures, 984 people infected with coronavirus were hospitalized as of Friday evening, including 597 in serious condition and 96 on ventilators.

The ministry reported 4,876 more cases confirmed Friday since midnight, with active cases at 63,559. There have been 978,212 verified infections and 6,759 COVID fatalities in the country since the pandemic began.

Nurse Maysoon Makladeh prepares for a shift in the coroanvirus ward of Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Medical Center (Screencapture/Channel 12)

Friday’s positive test rate stood at 5.43 percent.

The figures also showed 5,885,726 people in Israel have received at least one vaccine dose and 5,438,868 have gotten two shots. Another 1,322,827 Israelis have received a booster.

The nurses said many of the seriously ill were not vaccinated and often expressed deep regret.

“A woman came to us after giving birth. She and her husband were unvaccinated. She said she felt that ‘we’ve been had [by anti-vaxxers]. We’ve been had.’ They’d seen all these videos and they really believed they were doing the right thing,” said Shem-Ad.

Nurses monitor patients in the coronavirus ward at Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Medical Center (Screen capture/Channel 12)

“We see a big difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated. Just this morning a 49-year-old, clear-headed, independent, working man; married, a father of two; a healthy man, strong — he made the personal choice not to get vaccinated and today his body betrayed him,” said Makladeh

“He couldn’t breathe anymore. He couldn’t talk to us anymore. Two minutes before we put him on a respirator, we had a short talk to get his consent. He said: ‘I was wrong.’ He understands that, but I’m afraid it’s too late.”

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