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'It's starting to wear on us, for sure' | Treating COVID-19 in the Pediatric ICU

The Delta variant is hitting children harder than ever, overwhelming hospitals and nurses across Kentuckiana.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — They're exhausted and stressed, yet determined to care for the sickest of the sick. We're talking about the nurses and doctors treating our kids suffering from COVID-19.

When you ask Kristin Maguino how she's holding up, she's quick to smile. 

"I'm good. Tired, but good," she said.

Maguino is a bedside nurse at Norton Children's Hospital's Intensive Care Unit, or PICU. It's a position she's held there the last five years, but her experience in the last few weeks has been like none other.

"It's starting to wear on us for sure," Maguino said.

Dr. Melissa Porter, the medical director for the PICU at Norton Children's, said the nurses and respiratory therapists have been working nonstop through the pandemic, caring for everyone.

"They've gone to help the adult hospitals when they saw the surge and now that we are, they're putting in the extra time here," Dr. Porter said. "So, it's challenging to keep the energy up."

RELATED: US hospitals hit with nurse staffing crisis amid COVID

The Delta variant is hitting children harder than ever, overwhelming hospitals across Kentuckiana.

"Kids are getting really sick pretty quickly," Maguino said. "The volume we're seeing right now is what's concerning for all of us."

This week, Norton Children's treated at least 25 kids with the virus - more than it's ever seen at one time. The majority are between the ages of 10 and 17 and Dr. Porter said many of them have been eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

"It's always been difficult to see kids in situations where they shouldn't have been," Maguino said. "But we have to leave that up to each parent, unfortunately, to make that decision for what's best for their child. We can only encourage them with what we know and our expertise."

With this most recent surge, seven kids are in the ICU, and some have been on a ventilator for several weeks. Dr. Porter said none have been able to come off.

"If you've never seen a kid on a ventilator sick from a respiratory virus, or from the flu, you might not have the fear we have about it," Maguino said. "They have fluids hooked up to them, a tube in their nose or mouth going into their stomach. They obviously have the tape over their face. I think that's the most difficult thing for parents."

If it's not COVID, it's likely RSV, which not only hit early this year but also in record numbers. Staff have never had to deal with both at the same time.

"RSV usually rocks our world anyways, in the winter, so when you add that with COVID, it's putting everybody on their toes," Maguino said.

Contact reporter Brooke Hasch atbhasch@whas11.com. Follow her onTwitter (@WHAS11Hasch) andFacebook.

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