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Documentary shares a glimpse into life of Sharp Memorial hospital ICU nurse during pandemic

Posted at 6:28 PM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 21:28:14-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV)- Many healthcare workers on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic have seen a lot over the past year.

"I wanted to create a film that kind of gave an inside look of what the nursing community has faced and what they've had to change and just showcase their resiliency throughout this past year," said Claire Imler, a 21-year-old filmmaker from Orange County. "Even though we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, vaccines coming out, and things opening up, I think COVID is still very real and present, and we shouldn't forget that."

Imler created the short documentary film 'Exposure,' featuring her childhood friend, Deanna Okajima, an ICU nurse at Sharp Memorial Hospital.

"Deanna has been a close family friend of mine since I was probably eight years old," said Imler.
"I was inspired by Deanna's strength and courage as she worked the front lines."

The documentary follows 26-year-old Okajima through the hospital, as she works with COVID-19 patients and the harsh realities that come with that.

She cares for patients and contacts loved ones to set up Zoom chats with their hospitalized family members.

"The community around us calls us heroes, but I have trouble taking that in often when I'm at the bedside because it doesn't feel like what we are doing is heroic," Okajima says in the film. "It doesn't feel heroic when we can't give our patients the comfort that they want, or we can't let their loved ones in because of visitation rules, or when we zip up a body bag quickly after they die, in order to make room for the next person."

The documentary was produced, directed, shot, and edited entirely by Imler.

Okajima tells ABC 10News she was a nurse for two-and-a-half years in Sharp Memorial's progressive care unit (PCU) before shifting to the intensive care unit (ICU) as the pandemic began.

"I didn't quite feel prepared," she said. "We were all kind of transitioning together, and there was a lot of support on the unit that kind of helped us get through it day by day."

Okajima said this pandemic has changed nursing as she knew it.

"This pandemic has changed the way we approach our patient care," she said. "We learned to prepare before we run into a room; we learn to think critically about the number of things that could go wrong."

As hospitals are looking better, vaccines are now available, and some people are getting back to a bit of normalcy, both hope the documentary will serve as a reminder of what many healthcare workers lived through and their resilience.

"I hope that this film serves as a memoir for our healthcare providers across the world, as we go forward and continue on hopefully with our normal lives that this year won't be forgotten," said Okajima.

To watch the entire film, click here.