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Denver paramedic pulls back the curtain on the trauma and burnout healthcare workers face

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Posted at 10:25 PM, Jul 08, 2020

DENVER — The coronavirus pandemic isn’t slowing down and it’s taking a toll on healthcare workers. A paramedic that wants to remain anonymous says between the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests, her limits are tested daily.

Denver7 spoke with a Denver Health Workers United paramedic. Out of fear of retaliation, she asked Denver7 not to share her information but wants people to understand the fear, trauma and burnout healthcare worker are experiencing.

The screeching of sirens can make your head spin and for paramedics on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis, it’s overwhelming.

“I have never seen anything like this before,” the paramedic told Denver7.

She says back in March during ten shifts, she lost ten patients and the loss of lives to the virus continues.

“I saw more deaths than I have in probably a year combined,” she said. “If I have the COVID positive experience, that’s the day that I’ll go home and cry.”

She may wear a uniform, but her duties go beyond the job description when she looks into her patients’ eyes.

“I am wondering if this is it, is this the last conversation that this person is going to have, is it going to be with me,” she recalled. “Sometimes, the only thing I can do is take them to the hospital and hold their hand along the way.”

This mother suits up for duty four times a week for her ten-hour shifts. She often has to arrive at work 30 minutes to an hour early to disinfect equipment. She tells Denver7 that extra time isn't paid and she’s limited to the number of wipes she can use to clean equipment due to a shortage. The seasoned paramedic says she’s faced with fears on every shift.

“Going into COVID-positive buildings, having to reuse out N95 masks, having to put on this riot gear and not knowing whether you are actually are going to make it home,” she tells Denver7.

For more than two decades, she has worked in the medical field and for the first time, she suited up in riot gear for a protest downtown. She says while they train for these situations, nothing could prepare them for their encounter with protesters.

“One of my coworkers was completely traumatized when he got back into a wall and the crowd started to come at him thinking he was a cop,” she said.

She says since the pandemic her anxiety has increased, she’s now taking medication and admits she feels burned out.

“It’s hard to continue doing this every day -- if this is just the first wave, how much longer can anybody keep doing this?”

We asked her if she had a message for people against wearing masks. Her response:

“Come do a ride-along with me and my ambulance and I’ll show you the importance of wearing a mask," she said. "I’ll show you what it really looks like to have to take care of these extremely sick people that are dying right in front of your eyes.”