Though COVID-19 cases are currently trending downward, the virus hasn't disappeared. It's been a year since the pandemic first started, and the marathon still continues for frontline workers who treat ill patients every day.
Parkland Health and Hospital system said between the number of doctor visits and hospitalizations, 43,619 COVID-19 patients have been treated in the past year.
Bianca Castillo, a registered nurse who has worked at Parkland for five years, spent much of the past 12 months in the COVID-19 Unit at Parkland.
“There have been a lot of hard moments working in the TCU (Tactical Care Unit), in the COVID unit, and it mainly is related to the deaths that we’ve had and I think a lot of the staff take it very personally," said Castillo.
She said while it's their job to go in and take care of patients, it doesn't take away from the heartbreak.
"The most difficult part about all this was in the beginning when there were so many restrictions with family coming in because of COVID precautions. I feel like the staff took on the burden of feeling those emotions and the grief for the family when a patient was inside," explained a tearful Castillo.
In the past year, 471 people have died while in the hospital at Parkland.
"The main thing we would want families to know is that we’re there with the patients, we all care. From the respiratory therapist to the doctors, to nurses, to leadership, we all feel for the patients," said Castillo. "We’ll say a prayer over them, we’ll hold their hands, if that’s any comfort to the family, that’s what we really want them to know."
It's a reality many health care workers have experienced over the last 12 months of taking on the role of family for those who were dying alone.
Castillo said she tries to work out to cope with the stress and also recently took a trip to the Smokey Mountains for vacation.
"Just being outside and taking a breather from all of this has been really nice," she said.
The Dallas native, who was also born at Parkland, said she originally became a nurse because of her mother. Castillo said her mom had a language barrier when it came to communicating with doctors and nurses. Castillo said she wanted to become a nurse to help bridge that gap.
Even though the past year has been challenging, Castillo remains determined to push forward and continue her passion for helping others who need it the most.
Currently, there are 38 patients hospitalized at Parkland for COVID-19. Meanwhile, 58 other patients are recovering, which means they are no longer infectious but are still in the hospital because of symptoms.
Want to Get on a Vaccine Waitlist?
County health departments have launched waitlists for adults 16 years old and over.
You can register to recieve the vaccination in Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. Links are below:
You do not need to be a resident of the county to register for a COVID-19 vaccine in that county -- registration is open to anyone in Texas. For those without internet access, Tarrant County is also taking registrations by phone at 817-248-6299. In Dallas County, call the DCHHS vaccine hotline at 1-855-IMMUNE9 (1-855-466-8639). In Denton County, call 940-349-2585.
For a more detailed breakdown of who is included in each priority group in Texas, see this page from the Texas DSHS.