Kelsey Owen, a 26-year-old nurse in New York City, opens up about the pressures of treating coronavirus patients in a new interview with Katie Couric.
Countless times, she’s had to tell family members that their loved ones are in the final hours of their life. She’s often met with some form of denial. The wife of one patient with esophageal cancer who, without COVID-19, could have likely had about two years to live refused to let him transition into comfort care, where patients are shifted when they are nearing the end of their life, so he was instead transferred to the ICU.
Owen’s first thought, she says, was “that’s someone’s spot for a ventilator.”
“As a health care professional I’ve never had to think that way ever and I hate that this virus is making me think who gets to live,” Owen says. “We shouldn’t have to do that for people.”
Grappling with these questions has taken a toll on Owen’s mental health; her anxiety has soared and she says she called out sick one day because her “mind just couldn’t get [her] out of bed.”
“It was too much,” Owen says. So she found a therapist who is now helping her deal with “compassion fatigue.”
But it’s still not easy as the lines between work and home seem to have blurred for Owen. In the hospital, she’s constantly dealing with the virus. When she returns home, she wonders, “Is it on me or is it in my house? Are my family or friends going to get it?”
“It’s traumatic,” Owen says.
Owen wipes away tears when she tells Couric that she doesn’t know if she will continue being a nurse after this experience.
“It’s like I’ve been robbed of joy. I’ve seen the sickest of the sick so fast forward two years from now,” Owen says. She adds, “Am I going to show the compassion and love that I did before this? I don’t know. And I’m doing my best but this virus is just winning.”
This interview is part of a special series produced in collaboration with Katie Couric. Read more from TIME Reports with Katie Couric, and sign up for her weekday morning newsletter Wake-Up Call with Katie Couric.