Ont. nurse reflects on treating COVID-19 and her own battle with the deadly virus
ORILLIA, ONT. -- Shelley Biscoe has been a nurse for more than a quarter-century, but what she's experienced in the third wave of the pandemic is like nothing else.
"I've never nursed like this, "Biscoe says.
It's a thought that crossed her mind in recent weeks as Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital's small intensive care unit received two COVID-19-positive patients simultaneously.
Biscoe describes a small army of medical staff and equipment for each patient crowding the 14-bed unit.
For the Orillia nurse, the only experience that comes close was working at a hospital in Washington, D.C., and treating soldiers returning from the war in Afghanistan.
"Then, I was working with a team that was used to disaster training," Biscoe says. "Our little hospital managed two patients like that at the same time, and I was just so proud of them that they managed to have everything ready, and it went off without a hitch."
Biscoe has been tasked with preparing the nursing staff for crises, leading a condensed ICU training program that would typically be spread across years.
It's meant to help fill gaps.
"The ICU nurses, they're tired. They've been working non-stop through this wave. They're all in overtime, every single one," Biscoe says.
She admits to tiring more easily after contracting COVID-19 last spring. She was placed on a ventilator in the very ICU that's become her second home.
Thinking back on last May stirs up emotions for Biscoe's 23-year-old daughter. Sarah Waltman is a registered nurse at the Orillia hospital and was only a few weeks into her new job when her mom fell ill.
Waltman found it hard to be at the hospital while her mom was unconscious one floor above her but says she felt her guidance.
"In the back of my head, she was saying, 'Just keep going, just keep doing every shift you work you're gaining more experience, you're getting better.'"
Still, Waltman missed hearing her mom's voice out loud.
"This was supposed to be a very exciting time for me starting my career, and all I wanted to do was talk to her about it. And I couldn't talk to her. That was definitely the hardest part."
With Biscoe now recovered, they talk about work so much they've instituted a no-nursing discussion at dinner policy.
Waltman says she's tried to emulate her mom's compassion and the difference she's made in the lives of her patients and their families.
Her colleagues took notice Wednesday, naming Waltman Rookie of the Year.
Biscoe says their relationship is one of mutual support.
"It's been really nice that we've been able to bounce things off each other. She talks to me as an experienced nurse, and I speak with her as a new grad [finding out] how new grads feel in the hospital and what's important to their learning. So we're really helping each other, all the time," Waltman finished.