PHOTOS: Inside A Coronavirus ICU In Colorado

November 23, 2020
COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
This is the sober reality of a COVID-19 unit: Patients sequestered in rooms that are off limits to all family, friends and loved ones. Behind their heads there are small forests of breathing aids, monitors and drip feeds that lead via hoses and cables to masks or intubation incisions in their necks, and needles in their arms. They are alone but for the caregivers who quietly bustle around, as their bodies fight to recover from the virus. Nurse Kathyrn Stewart checks on a patient’s kidney function in the COVID-19 ICU nurse at Rose Medical Center in Denver, Nov. 13, 2020.

More than a quarter of a million Americans have died due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. In Colorado, as of Friday evening, there have been 188,566 cases and 2,745 deaths.

At the Rose Medical Center's intensive care unit in Denver, patients in critical condition are cared for around the clock by a small group of doctors, nurses and technicians.

Through glass walls and doors, I count eight patients. Two rooms are unoccupied. In most of the filled rooms, there is no movement. Some of the patients are in medically induced paralysis and comas because they are on ventilators. Others lie motionless with masks on their faces. One is sitting in a chair. Some have been there for weeks.

All live connected to small forests of machines, monitors, cables and hoses that deliver life-saving medications and data.

COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The COVID-19 intensive care unit at Rose Medical Center, Denver, Nov. 13, 2020.

None of these patients can have visitors; not on the floor, not peering through the glass windows, and certainly not at bedside. The only movement in the hallway and rooms comes from caregivers, who incessantly peel off and replace layers of plastic gowns, gloves, masks and face shields.

Colorado's COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths have all climbed sharply since late summer, when public health restrictions eased. Now, cities, counties and school districts across the state have begun reinstating tougher restrictions.

Gov. Jared Polis has voiced concern about hospital capacity, directing hospitals to prepare for a surge of patients and calling a special session for state lawmakers to address the pandemic's economic and public health fallout.

Like similar units all over the state and country, the Rose COVID-19 ICU is a place few people other than patients and caregivers will ever see.

COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Monica Wininger is the director of clinical care at Rose Medical Center’s intensive care unit, and has about 22 years of experience in nursing. She supervises care, manages the department, and has about 45 staff reporting to her.
COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Kathyrn Stewart has been a nurse for 2 and a half years and worked in Austin, Texas, before coming to Rose in September. She's worked on the COVID-19 unit since then.
COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Anna Hoppe is an RN at the Rose Medical Center COVID-19 intensive care unit. By sometimes peering through a glass wall to check on a patient, she avoids having to put on personal protective gear and enter the room -- saving the PPE for more crucial room entries, and saving time. Hoppe has been a nurse for 7 years, joining Rose in 2019. She has been working on the COVID unit since the start of the pandemic.
COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Stewart, left, and respiratory therapist Joe Fitch look through the glass wall of a patient's room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at Rose Medical Center, Denver, Nov. 13, 2020.
COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Nurses at Rose Medical Center’s COVID 19 intensive care unit pull on gowns, gloves, face masks and shields, Denver, Nov. 13, 2020.
COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Stewart, in full PPE, prepares to check on a patient’s kidney functions. The rooms are equipped with special heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to meet ICU and COVID-level of care requirements.
COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
All of the state's virus infection numbers have climbed sharply since Labor Day, and have prompted cities, counties and school districts to begin re-implementing strict public health measures. Gov. Polis is concerned about hospital capacity and has issued an executive order to set up a process for hospitals should they begin running out of beds.
COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Respiratory therapist Joe Fitch puts on full personal protective equipment as he gets ready to enter a patient's room at the COVID-19 intensive care unit at Rose Medical Center. As, doctors, nurses and technicians move from room to room, they peel all this PPE off, throw it away in special containers, then repeat the process with fresh gear for the next room.
COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Respiratory therapist in Joe Fitch. Donning and doffing PPE and following all the infection prevention precautions on the COVID-19 ICU adds an additional layer to what is already a complex routine of caring for ICU patients.
COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A nurse prepares a patient's medication. Rose is part of the HealthONE system, where the average length of stay for all COVID patients (ICU and non-ICU) has decreased from nearly 12 days during the spring peak to about 5.8 days now.
COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
After peeling off her PPE gown and gloves and leaving them in a special container, Stewart leaves a patient’s room.
COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Recently used face shields in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at Rose Medical Center, Denver, Nov. 13, 2020. Some personal protective equipment are cleaned and sterilized for re-use.
COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Nurses make notes on glass walls and doors in the ICU as a way to communicate with each other inside and outside patients' rooms.
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Fresh blankets for a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit.
COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Jeff Hackworth, a cardiac sonographer, prepares to enter a patient’s room in the COVID0-19 intensive care unit at Rose Medical Center in Denver, where he will perform a heart ultrasound on a man in a medically induced paralysis and coma.
COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Cleaning down workspaces in the4 COVID-19 intensive care unit at Rose Medical Center, Denver, Nov. 13, 2020.
COVID-ICU-ROSE-MEDICAL-CENTER-201113Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at Rose Medical Center awaits another patient. There are 10 rooms in the unit, and a hospital spokesman says the capacity remains stable and Rose hasn't needed to transition any other areas of the hospital to ICU status. As part of the HealthONE system, Rose has access to more resources, including other hospitals, if Rose is faced with a significant surge.

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