‘It’s exhausting’: ICU nurse shares before-and-after photos of herself to show pandemic toll

TORONTO — A Tennessee ICU nurse has inspired other health-care workers to share how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected them by posting before-and-after photos of herself that show the physical toll it’s taken on her.

On Sunday, Kathryn, who requested her last name be withheld due to harassment concerns, uploaded two photos of herself on Twitter.

In the first photo, which was taken in the middle of April right after she graduated from nursing school, Kathryn appears fresh-faced and smiling as she poses for the camera.

In the second one, which was taken while she was at work on Saturday, Kathryn is unsmiling with bags under her eyes and the marks from a face mask visible on her cheeks.

She captioned the composite photo: “How it started… how it’s going.”

Kathryn, who works as an ICU nurse in Nashville, Tenn., said she decided to share the photos so people who don’t spend every day in a hospital can see how the pandemic is affecting health-care workers.

“It’s exhausting,” she told CTVNews.ca during a telephone interview on Tuesday. “People don’t see it. They don’t. They don’t see what we see. They don’t see the reality of this every day.”

While she can’t take photos of her patients who are battling COVID-19, Kathryn said she realized she might be able to provide a glimpse of what life has been like in a hospital setting during the pandemic by pointing the camera at herself.

“I mean just the physical effects of wearing all that PPE (personal protective equipment) for so long,” she said. “We’re dehydrated all the time because we’re sweating so much and because with the masks on, you can’t drink until you leave the floor or go into the break room to take your mask off and drink.”

Kathryn said she expects there to be another surge of new COVID-19 cases in Tennessee in the coming weeks, so she wanted to send a message to those who may not be taking the pandemic and public health measures seriously.

“There’s still no definitive treatment for this disease and so to see my patients, these people that I provide care for, suffer so intensely and then see other people acting like that’s not happening, or like they couldn’t cause that to happen to someone else, is infuriating,” she said.

It appears Kathryn’s post struck a nerve among other health-care workers, who also took to Twitter to share their own before-and-after photos of what life has been like for them during the pandemic.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Kathryn’s post has received more than 921,000 likes and has been retweeted more than 72,000 times.

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