Valley ICU nurse finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel in COVID fight

Mar 16, 2021, 4:35 AM | Updated: 12:47 pm
Kendal Gribler (KTAR News/ Ali Vetnar)...
Kendal Gribler (KTAR News/ Ali Vetnar)
(KTAR News/ Ali Vetnar)

This story is part of KTAR News’ “Pandemic in Arizona: One Year In” special report on 92.3 FM, online and our app.

PHOENIX — In what has been unquestionably the longest year of her career, a Valley ICU nurse is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Kendal Gribler, an advanced clinical nurse in the ICU at Valleywise Health’s hospital in Phoenix told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad on Monday.

Gribler said there is only one patient in the ICU with COVID-19 as of Monday, and the person is there for other reasons but just happened to test positive for the virus. There are only 13 patients with COVID-19 in the hospital, which Gribler says is a significant difference from a month ago.

“The last month or so we’ve seen a downtrend in cases and I feel like the cases that have been coming in have been less severe than they were over the last year,” Gribler said. “I don’t know what to attribute it to but it’s definitely been a weight off our shoulders.”

“Different emotions now, a little bit more hope,” she said of the hospital staff.

It’s a welcome change for Gribler who’s been in the ICU since the pandemic started just over a year ago, where days were filled with alarms and chaos.

“It was definitely a challenge to kind of come down from that,” Gribler said, adding talking with coworkers and hiking helped. “Somedays you just need total silence.”

Amidst all the chaos was death on a level not seen before.

“The overwhelming feeling of helplessness with some of these patients or with a lot of them that you’re doing everything that you possibly can … and it’s just not helping,” Gribler said.

“As a nurse, that’s really hard to handle.”

Another cruel impact of the pandemic was family not being allowed to be alongside their loved ones who were passing on, with that responsibility falling to Gribler and other hospital staff.

Gribler described holding the hand of a patient while a chaplin gave a man his last rights over the phone. The family had decided to withdraw care for the man once medical professionals did everything they could and nothing was helping.

“Unfortunately that’s been pretty commonplace this year and not only challenging for family members and heartbreaking for family members but for all of us here at the hospital,” Gribler said. “It’s definitely been a heartbreaking year.”

As cases decline, Gribler and other nurses who have gone through a year of stress can begin to look toward the future, like that vacation Gribler said she feels has been needed forever.

She hopes the positive direction continues but admits there is still a bit of unknown what will happen around holidays like Saint Patrick’s Day or with restrictions being lifted.

“We’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully it stays that way,” Gribler said.

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Valley ICU nurse finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel in COVID fight