NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kathryn Sherman became a nurse hoping to save lives. She never imagined that she would lose so many so needlessly.
"I don't want anybody to end up suffering the way that my patients have suffered," Sherman said. "I have resigned myself to the fact that, for many people, that is how they're going to learn."
Sherman's first day as a nurse was in July of 2020. The next day, she was assigned to her hospital's intensive care unit, coming face to face every shift with a pandemic killer.
"In the past year, new nurses did not get to be new nurses," she said. "We were charge nurse, two and three months off orientation, if that. We were having to take care of an entire unit in addition to our own patient load because there simply wasn't the staff."
In November, she tweeted two photos side-by-side — one of her as an idealistic nursing student, the other several months into her new job, looking exhausted and her face bearing the marks of protective equipment designed to try to keep her safe.
Her tweet quickly went viral.
"The (woman) on the right saw a lot more people die," Sherman said. "A lot of death, a lot of suffering that I knew I would see to some extent, but I didn't think it was going to be that much, that fast."
Sherman says in the past year, she's seen more people die from COVID-19 than she could count.
The current spike in COVID-19 cases — with the delta variant once again filling ICUs — is tragically different for Sherman and her fellow nurses.
"The first time we all banded together, and there was the adrenaline fight-or-flight response that all health care workers had, and now we don't have that anymore," she said. "We're exhausted, and we're frustrated, and we wish that people would just listen to us."
Unlike earlier in the pandemic, the people she sees dying now are those who simply made the decision not to get the vaccine.
"I'm really, really angry all the time because people are dying who don't need to die," Sherman said.
Sherman was asked to record a video diary following the end of a recent shift at a Nashville-area hospital. Watch the video below.
"I am so tired of the people who are creating their own reality where COVID is not a problem, and then they have the audacity to get mad at people like me when we try to show them that, no, this is real," she said in a video after a recent shift. "I am talking about the people who survived COVID, and now they are going to be dependent on oxygen the rest of their life; the people who survived COVID and now they're going to live in a nursing facility for the rest of their life. Because of COVID, they had an anoxic brain injury, and now they are so brain-damaged that they cannot care for themselves."
In a recent Twitter thread, Kathryn described how the initial waves of COVID-19 eventually subsided, allowing her to see the ICU as a place where death was not always standing watch.
"The things I did mattered. My actions actually saved lives. No longer was death my constant silent companion," she wrote.
It didn't have to be like this.— Kathryn Ivey (@kathryniveyy) August 1, 2021
But, now, death has returned, thanks to those who once denied the reality that Sherman knows all too well.
Sherman hopes that those who are not vaccinated will make plans to go right away to get the shot that has now been proven to save lives so that they do not become another one of her many patients.
This story was originally published by Phil Williams on Scripps station WTVF in Nashville.