Minnesota nurse union president details 'real and devastating' impact of COVID-19

Mary Turner the president of the Minnesota Nurses Association describes what it's like working on a COVID-19 floor of a hospital.

Mary Turner, the president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, gave an emotional speech during Minnesota's COVID-19 briefing to describe the impact the virus has had on patients and their family members.

Turner is a medical intensive care nurse at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, where she is currently working on a COVID-19 floor.

Unlike the images we've seen of hospitals overrun with COVID-19 patients in New York City, state leaders say medical institutions in Minnesota have an excess capacity of ICU beds with the ability to build more.

But Turner says the ICUs at North Memorial are slowly filling up with patients who stay on ventilators for weeks. During that time, they are isolated from their families and loved ones while they battle the potentially deadly virus and she worries it is only going to get worse.

At the same time, Turner says healthcare workers continue to ration their personal protective equipment on COVID-19 floors where the doors are closed off and workers are constantly in full garb.

While many Minnesotans are eager to get back to business as usual, Turner says it would be dangerous to underestimate the damage this virus can do.

"I want to thank you the people for giving us every day, every hour and every minute to help us prepare. I can't thank you enough, but I do want to stress to you that we are doing a fantastic job of getting prepared, but you also need to know just how real this is.

"I’m living the dream, we have a full floor of patients that are on ventilators and they are on these ventilators for several weeks. Just when we think they are going to get better and we take their tube out, we have to put it back in. 

“This terrible, vicious virus attacks not only the respiratory, but it attacks the heart and it attacks the kidneys. It’s spreading throughout their whole body and I don’t know how many calls I’ve had during the middle of the night – family begging to see their family members - asking us to ‘Can you just please put the phone up to their ear, so we can tell them we love them?’ Because if you become a patient and your family ends up in the ICU you can’t see them. You can’t. They can’t come to hold your hand and as family members you can only call to the nurses’ station to hopefully get a more positive update.

“So I want you to realize just how real and devastating this will be and I get it that we economically want to get back to business, but this is serious and the way we’re doing it and the way the governor is leading us, with his intelligence and his strength and just awesome leadership, is going to help us get through this and I just want once again to thank you, the people of Minnesota for doing the right thing and doing it so well, thank you.”