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'Like Someone Is Sticking A Knife In My Side': Nurse From Allegheny Co. Working In Hospice Care Tests Positive For Coronavirus

HAMPTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. (KDKA) - A family in Hampton has reason for concern. Their daughter who works as a nurse just outside Washington D.C. has tested positive for COVID-19.

Susie Carl is now 36. She graduated from Hampton High School and then got her nursing degree at the University of Virginia. A little more schooling, and it was off to see the world as a U.S. Navy nurse.

Now back in civilian life, she specializes in hospice care and has spent the coronavirus epidemic keeping victims comfortable as they die from the virus.

Nurse Susie Carl is now fighting the symptoms of COVID-19.

"The symptoms come in waves throughout the day. Nighttime is for some reason the worst," she says.

Susie says it's impossible to find a comfortable position, "and I keep getting this kind of sharp visceral pains like someone is sticking a knife in my side."

Nurse Carl has knows exactly when she was exposed.

It was last Wednesday and she was working with a man dying of the virus. At the time she was wearing a hardware store mask, and a face shield.

"He started coughing and it didn't occur to me until after the fact that I should have turned away because he was a dying man. And I like, leaned in to comfort him. And that aerosolization got under my mask and that was it."

Two days later, the initial symptoms hit, but she thought it was allergy related. On Monday she says, "The wave hit me and I felt cold really tired went home from work."

The next morning, she went through the drive-thru testing at her hospital, but already knew what it would reveal.

Wednesday the test came back positive. She has a machine to check her oxygen levels when her chest gets tight and it's hard to breath.

"So even when it feels like I'm not getting enough air, I have that validation that my oxygen levels are fine, it's scary," she says.

Nurse Susie Carl has been helping COVID-19 patients for weeks, and about a month ago she says she accepted the idea she was going to get the virus -- accepted it as an inevitability because she and her fellow nurses have been working without the protective equipment they really need.

Now she's worried about here colleagues even more.

"The hospice and palliative team is not that big and every one of them got exposed from me," she says. "That's a horrible feeling."

As the virus has ravaged the older population, Susie Carl and her colleagues have been there holding the hands of those who have slipped away.

They do the best they can, using FaceTime and Zoom to let family be there virtually. She says in one case they had a musical therapist playing music on FaceTime, while the family was on Zoom and the woman quietly died.

Recovering at home, Susie is staying in touch with her family through technology. A devoted aunt, she says she misses the hugs of her niece and nephew who don't live that far away.

And she knows she's worrying her parents back home in Hampton: "Of course I crave a hug from my mom and every day she asked if she can come down. I have to keep telling her no, that's the worst idea, I love it but it's the worst idea."

Medically, Susie says her risks of complications are low so she's certain she will be fine.

Last night was rough, but she's hopeful she's getting the best of it.

"I'm hoping in the next couple days I turn a big corner," she says. "I'm supposed to be back at work on Tuesday if I don't have more fevers over the weekend."

For this frontline nurse who is anxious to get back to work and help her colleagues, she cringes and is even moved to tears by the push she's hearing to get things back to normal.

"The medical community needs a lot more support before it's safe, before it's safe again," she says.

She says people just don't understand because they haven't had the up close perspective of what this virus means and is doing. Carl worries about the medical community not being able to safely handle a second or a third wave.

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