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A TikTok ICU Nurse Demonstrated How She Tells COVID-19 Patients They're About To Be Intubated, And It's Sobering

"Every single day, I help someone’s body to fight off death..."

Savanna is a 28-year-old traveling ICU nurse. She's originally from Tennessee but is currently stationed at a hospital in New York City, where she focuses on treating COVID-19 patients.

Savanna in PPE

"ICU nursing is a delicate balance of trying to run someone’s body for them, when their body cannot do it themselves," Savanna told BuzzFeed. "We manage medication drips to keep your heart beating. We run a machine that can act in place of the kidneys. We assist to place you on a machine that will keep your lungs breathing. We feed you, and care for every need that your body has while you cannot do it yourself."

Savanna with a mask on outside a hospital

Savanna's job took a turn for the worse when the coronavirus pandemic hit. "The pandemic has turned an already tough job into something that — for many nurses and healthcare workers — would be considered a nightmare. We were asked to risk our lives to come in and take care of the nation's sick — a call many of us have proudly answered — knowing that every day we come to work, we are opening ourselves to exposure and infection," she said.

A COVID icu patient in Southern California

"It has led to many of us picking up extra hours to fill gaps left by the increasing needs of ICU nurses. And it has left many of us traumatized from the sadness and death that we have seen on such a high level during the pandemic," she said. Savanna has mentioned in her TikToks that she often cries after her shifts.

Savanna crying

One of Savanna's emotionally challenging responsibilities is to inform patients with advanced coronavirus cases that they need to be intubated. Intubation is when someone can no longer breathe on their own, so a doctor needs to place a tube down their throat and into their windpipe. The tube is connected to a ventilator that pumps air with extra oxygen into their lungs and helps them breathe out carbon dioxide.

A medical staff putting a ventilator on a patient

Recently, Savanna posted a POV video on her TikTok account where she re-enacted telling a patient that they needed to be put on a ventilator. "I decided to post this educate families that have loved ones who have gone through this recently, and to educate people who still choose to not mask or follow social distancing guidelines," she said.

"I also filmed it to let people know that we are still here, and still really care for their loved ones while they are in the hospital," she said. "We spend our whole day with this one life, trying to save them, forming bonds with them, and it breaks our heart for them to have to go through this alone."

Savanna in PPE, with the caption, “It’s gonna be ok. It’s gonna be alright. Do you want me to put your family on the phone so you can FaceTime them?”

Savanna said she's seen people in their twenties, thirties, and forties die from COVID-19. "Every single day, I help someone's body fight off death with a huge team of others in the hospital," she said. "I hope people take away that healthcare workers are here to help them. But at the same time, they need to understand that what may seem like a simple choice to not wear a mask on the subway could end a life and devastate a family. Small choices right now have big consequences."

Savanna wearing a mask, captioned "Wear a mask. Save a life"

If you want to see more videos about what it's like to work in the ICU, you can follow Savanna's TikTok page: thatICUnurse.