MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — First responders are speaking out about the emotional toll COVID-19 is taking.

From a paramedic to nurses in the ICU, Mayo Clinic’s frontline spoke candidly Tuesday about what they are seeing right now.

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Amy Spitzner is a critical care nurse inside Mayo’s ICU.

“This is definitely the worst that it’s been for us,” Spitzner said.

Desirae Cogswell is a respiratory therapist.

“Before this pandemic I was a little ignorant I guess on how sick someone really can be,” Cogswell said.

Andrew Torres is a paramedic with Mayo Clinic Ambulance.

“I’m feeling like we’re fighting an uphill battle against people who don’t wear the proper precautions,” Torres said.

Nurses in the ICU and infectious disease, a respiratory therapist and paramedic spoke out on the toll the last nine months has taken during careers they knew would be difficult.

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“Unfortunately, that’s only exacerbated by COVID. And the influx of patients that we’ve seen, the additional precautions that needed to be taken and just the anxiety of the risk of infection for us,” Torres said.

With on-going lockdowns and cases that again started climbing weeks ago, they admit there’s no real reset anymore.

“I think for all of us, no matter what position we’re in, I think everyone’s overwhelmed at this point,” Cogswell said.

Mayo Clinic has brought in traveling nurses to be a part of their team.

“It’s 12 hours of intense work. Always having to be on your toes ready to go. These patients are sick, they’re sick and sicker,” Spitzner said.

In one case, Spitzner describes a colleague holding an iPad for eight hours so a family could say a final goodbye.

“If you could see the chaos that is a part of the unit right now, you would think twice about doing anything with a group of people,” Spitzner said.

And it’s why there’s nothing pretend about the pandemic they see.

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“We have a choice to make if we’re going to be part of the problem or part of the prevention,” Cogswell said.

Liz Collin