Cases climbing again: Checking in with the Glenbrook Covid ICU

Medical Watch

GLENBROOK, Ill. — It’s a new season in the Covid ICU.

More than four months ago, the WGN Medical Watch team went inside the Covid ICU at NorthShore University HealthSystem.

Today it is a different scene, likely thanks to vaccine distribution.

But those on the frontline say we’re not out of the woods yet.

It was a wintery day in December and the doctors and nurses inside Glenbrook Hospital were dealing with a post-Thanksgiving surge.

Every bed on the unit but one was occupied. The work at the bedside was constant.

Jesse Peterson Hall is the hospital’s president.

“It really has been a roller coaster,” Peterson said.

Now, as spring blooms outside, the numbers inside have dropped, along with the age of the sickest patients.

Maria Knecht is vice president of nursing and clinical operations at the hospital

“What we’re seeing now, unlike earlier, our patients are younger. So folks in their 30s, 40s, 50s, a lot of our older patients have been vaccinated,” she said.  “So much less of that population is coming in. And folks are coming in more acutely ill than they had been before.”

At their highest, 155 Covid patients filled the hospital in May 2020. By late summer, that number dropped to below 10. This spring, Peterson Hall said it has climbed again.

“In mid-March we got down to 13. Then it started climbing,” she said. “And we’ve been in mid to high 40s for last three weeks.”

Of the 21 beds in the ICU, nine are in use today with about half of those patients on ventilators.

“Mortality rate has fallen but it hasn’t fallen to zero,” Peterson Hall said. “So if you can avoid getting this disease and coming into the hospital, do everything you can to do that.”

“I think there’s a lot of reason to be optimistic and really thrilled at the rate of vaccinations we’ve been seeing, but it isn’t over,” Knecht said. “So, again, urge everybody to please be cautious, be safe. Do what you need to do, have some fun, but do it safely.”

Staff members are holding up still leaning on each other as they have for the past year.

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