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'There's regret and remorse': Providence Portland ICU nurse shares experiences with unvaccinated patients

Health care workers say many unvaccinated patients are putting themselves at risk without realizing the true consequences of COVID-19.

PORTLAND, Ore. — As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Oregon, so do life-saving measures at local hospitals. Many doctors and nurses want people to know what's happening in their intensive care units, especially if they haven't been vaccinated.

“It's just devastating to watch somebody drowning in the air,” said Sabra Bederka, an ICU nurse at Providence Portland Medical Center. She has stood by the sickest patients since the pandemic began.

“The biggest change I've seen right now is the age of the patients,” said Bederka. “They're younger.”

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Bederka said the number of COVID patients at Providence Portland has tripled over the last month. She said few, if any of them have been vaccinated.

“There's the regret and the remorse, hindsight is 20/20,” said Bederka. “The, ‘Oh I wish I'd done it. I was gonna get it!’ Well, there is no time for those excuses once you're on a huge amount of oxygen and can't breathe.”

Bederka believes many who still haven't been vaccinated don't truly understand what it takes to keep some patients alive. In extreme cases, she said doctors oxygenate patients’ blood by cycling it through an artificial lung.

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“This half-inch IV tube goes in your neck and there's another one in your groin,” said Bederka. “So it takes the blood out, puts it back in. Takes the blood out, puts it back in.”

But, she said, it doesn't have to be that way. Even in breakthrough cases, Bederka stressed the vaccine will work to prevent extreme illness in most cases. She hopes that information will finally sink in.

“The people who are getting vaccinated are not showing up to our hospital,” said Bederka. “They're not showing up to our ICU.”