Coronavirus: Hoax or Real?

Just ask those on the front line

Julia Contreras, Writer

A lot of news has been circulating whether coronavirus is a hoax or not. Do masks help us contain the virus from spreading? Is it as deadly as they say? Are people blowing it out of proportion? Well, others can say that COVID-19 is one of the most deadly cases of illnesses in American history. With high death rates, numbers of people getting sick increasing, and the rapid spread, people can say that it is not a hoax. 

Monica (right) with another nurse in the hospital environment

A young woman working in the medical field, Monica Stokes has kindly given me a preview of what its like working when COVID hit, when death rates were rising and people were getting sick by the day.

Monica Stokes graduated from Holy Family in 2013. As a former student in newspaper class, she knows how to document things and pay attention to detail well. Monica worked at Parkland Hospital located in Dallas, Texas, where she was a Surgical-Trauma ICU registered nurse until coronavirus hit their hospital in March, when the spread was rapid and new.

Monica began working in the COVID unit for two months until she left Parkland Hospital to graduate school. During her time in the COVID unit, they did a lot of renovations and moved things around to suit the patients with this sickness. This included converting their operating room that was no longer being used due scheduled appointments and surgeries being cancelled.

It opened up a new area called, “The Tactical Care Unit.”

“When you work in this unit you’re in a completely COVID contaminated unit, so you’re required to wear PPE (personal protective equipment) the entire time- that means for the whole shift you’re in a gown, gloves, booties over your shoes, an N95 mask, a hair net, and a face shield.  We also wore sterile gloves the entire time and those acted as our “bare hands” and we placed regular gloves over those to touch patients and to switch between patients.  This environment was nothing like I’d ever experienced,” said Stokes about what it was like working day-to-day in the COVID unit.

The empty unit before they brought patients into the TCU

“Most of us had face imprints of the N95 masks that we had to wear for 12hrs straight.”  Photo of Monica Stokes, right, and her working buddy, left.

How bad was it towards some patients?

It depends on how you respond to the virus.  Some people and patients had mild symptoms- fever, chills, cough, fatigue for days, some nausea and vomiting, loss of smell and taste.  However, some got very very sick and were unable to breathe on their own, and required a ventilator and a breathing tube to take over the function of their very sick and at that point, very tired lungs.  

What did people face when containing the cold?

I want to clarify that this is not just a cold.  This is a virus that has no cure.  This is a virus that has killed 239,000 people in the US as of today.  The people I took care of are some of the sickest patients I’ve cared for as an ICU nurse. These people are facing a contagious viral infection that hijacks human cells. The main issue that these patients were facing was Acute Respiratory Distress, simply, their lungs were failing.  Many of the patients I took care of faced a number of complications besides just acute respiratory distress syndrome, but all of my patients were ventilated (required a ventilator to breathe) and sedated (medically placed into a coma) in order to let their lungs recover, if they could. 

Hospital staff

 How did you guys work to help them? 

The Medical Intensive Care Team at Parkland was responsible for directing the care of these patients. We worked to care for these patients 24/7 and many of these ICU patients were in the hospital for 20+ days and required complete ventilator support while they were here.  When a patient is ventilated and sedated like these ICU patients are, the nurses and care team provide complete care for these helpless patients. We would also Zoom with their family members using a giant portable TV in order to update their families and show them the reality of the situation- that their family member was very very sick. 

To show the harsh reality of working in the medical field, here is a journal excerpt from Monica, talking about the work they faced which brought sadness along: 


It’s been a month since the tactical care unit opened.  And today I prepped another body for the morgue. Another life lost to COVID.  I’ve sadly lost count at this point. I pulled  a double bagged body bag onto the gurney and passed it off to go to the morgue. I washed his face, knowing this would be the last time. 

 As I got a report from the nurse who has been taking care of him shift after shift, I could tell how exhausted she was, how much work she had put into taking care of him today and for the last week. 

7PM: The shift starts with him already requiring my undivided attention.  I’m having to stand next to his pumps to titrate his drips based on his every reaction. He has such a delayed and labile response to any form of titration, I’m holding my breath as I go up on the medicine keeping his blood pressure up, but it takes about 5 minutes to take effect because of how acidotic he is, because of how sick he is.  It’s 8pm and I’ve already called the CRNA by my bedside because I’m maxed on my levophed and vaso, I’m barely keeping him alive and I’ve run out of options, he needs more.

 They said once we max out, per family, we won’t escalate care.  I draw up epinephrine from the pyxis and am pushing this medicine every 30 seconds until the attending shows up to keep him alive.. To keep his heart beating and his blood pressure from completely collapsing. The attending is on his way, he must don his PPE,  which feels like it takes an hour. My whole team is at my bedside waiting for the next order, watching me push this medicine every time he gets close to the brink of death, I pull him back up with a simple push of the medicine into his Veins.  Then the attending finally shows. He tells me, it’s time, we’ve exhausted all of our options. He tells me to stop giving him the medicine that’s keeping him alive, the family doesn’t want more interventions. We let all the numbers fall to zero.  His face becomes colorless, we remove him from the ventilator.  

I close his eyes with my fingers and ask my co-workers to share a moment of silence for this man, this human. I grab his hand and say a prayer for his soul, now painless and at peace in a better place than here, and for his family, who ‘s lives will be forever rocked by this.

The attending pronounces his time of death. I lower the head of bed so rigor mortis doesn’t set in with him upright.  The attending will call his wife.  It’s truly heartbreaking to hear her screams on the other end.

I remove all his lines and drains because he won’t go to the medical examiner because we know why he died,  COVID19. His family cannot see him. His body and belongings go to the morgue.  I wanted to give his family the mini prayer quilts that have been kept on his chest for a couple weeks as a memoir, but I might not even get that chance.  They can’t see him because of COVID, they never get to say goodbye, the last memory they have of him is the zoom meeting they had with day shift today.  What a tragedy. 

 I’m the last person to get to say goodbye to this other human. A human I never truly met. A human who’s voice I never heard.  A human I don’t truly know, but who’s body I know, who’s body I kept alive until the very last second. 

 I left that shift early, I no longer have a patient to care for. Now I go home and lay in my dark room,  thinking about how I’m the last human to touch this other human alive. And that some family never got to say goodbye. I close my eyes, set my 4:30pm alarm, and wait for another day, another night shift in the COVID ICU. 


Reading this journal entry should open you eyes to the harsh reality of this virus. Though some people may say it’s a basic cold, it really isn’t.  Corona can leave little to no side effects, or it can drastically change your life and result in death. Stay safe, sanitize, and wear your masks. Let’s get the world back to normal.