WENATCHEE — The last 18 months of working through the COVID-19 pandemic have begun to blend together for Jessica Culbertson, a Confluence Health intensive care unit nurse.

Her desire to keep the community safe and prevent people from dying keeps her motivated as she and other ICU staff work under “contingency staffing,” where nurses are tasked to take care of more patients than normal.

Culbertson said that she only asks that the everyone get vaccinated.

“This is exhausting for the nurses here, the doctors here, housekeeping,” Culbertson said. “Everyone that works here. It’s just been ongoing for 18 months with us now. You know, we’re tired physically, mentally, emotionally. We don’t like to have patients in here who are unable to see their loved ones. We don’t like to be the last person holding someone’s hand when they pass. We’re seeing patients from all ages, with comorbidities with no comorbidities so this is serious. People need to take action, get vaccinated.”

Culbertson said she went without seeing her parents from March until June 2020 back when COVID-19 vaccines were not available.

“My parents are Latinos in their 50s, more than likely with undiagnosed medical conditions,” she said. “I live with my husband, so it’s just me and him. We still took the precautions to make sure that we never caught COVID.”

Culbertson, her husband and parents got vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as vaccinations were available, she said. But Culbertson’s uncle, who lives in Florida, was unvaccinated and died due to COVID-19 on Wednesday, she said.

“It is emotional,” Culbertson said. “It’s sad that it happened to him and that it finally affected our family.”

Jackie Whited, Confluence Health director of the intensive care unit and progressive care unit, found herself at the other end of things when she tested positive for COVID-19 in November 2020.

She did not need to be admitted into the hospital, but it was pretty severe at one point, Whited said. Even now, Whited grapples with the long-term damage that COVID-19 left her.

She uses an inhaler for newly gained asthma and sees a pulmonologist.

“You don’t know how you’ll do when you get sick,” Whited said. “Why take the chance?”

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Oscar Rodriguez: (509) 665-1179