Nurse Roni Kasmal looks over COVID-19 patient in hospital bed with full personal protective equipment on

I WAS THERE: As Cases Rise Again, COVID-19 Nurse Raises Alarm Bells From Inside the ICU

Hi, my name is Roni and I'm a nurse from Los Angeles. I've been working in plastic surgery in Beverly Hills for the past 20 years. But during the shutdown, I took a position as an E.R. and ICU nurse in Sun Valley  

And it's a little bit bizarre to go between both worlds. It's definitely an example of the have and the have nots.  

My first week at the hospital. We had just opened the COVID unit. We obviously didn't have the right equipment in the rooms people were scared. We didn't know what we were dealing with. It was rough. It was rough.  

We’ve actually had several cases where family members were both admitted into the covered unit and into the covered units. We had a husband and wife. And unfortunately, the husband passed away and the wife was on the upstairs floor. And we had to go inform her that her husband had just passed. They really wanted us to sort of go in, do our care and get out. But obviously, that was one of those nights where we just had to sort of ignore that rule and sit with her. 

I’ve already had COVID. I contracted it at work. My family's has already had it. Because I know that I have the antibodies. I know that I have at least some short term immunity. I try to tend to spend a little bit more time in the room with patients, especially when they're just having a hard time.  

I just personally enjoy being in the room, hearing their stories, talking to them, finding out about their families.  

We definitely have our population of the older, sicker patients. And though those patients, you know, are 70, 80 years old, they have multiple health problems. Those ones, it's I don't want to say it's a death sentence, but it's really tough to recover. 

It, it's hard because as a health care worker, you see these cases, you know, you work with these people every day, you work with these people every day a lot of people will write off. Oh, it's just the elderly, which is people with preexisting conditions. So it's really hard to transmit that message to the public that says, look, you guys don't understand. We're seeing people that come in that should not be in the ICU on a ventilator. It makes no sense. 

The things that we're asking people to do. Just do things to protect not only yourself, but the people you care about. And unfortunately, what we're seeing is once people get the message, it's sometimes too late. And that's, that's the tragedy.

A Southern California nurse discusses her work inside a COVID-19 ICU and warns the coronavirus is far from over. The footage seen in this episode was filmed by the nurse and with the permission of the patient’s family.

About the Series

"I WAS THERE" is about telling a great story. This series of first-person accounts breaks current and historical events down to human scale, carefully taking the viewer behind some of Southern California’s biggest headlines.

Production team

Executive Producer: Karen Foshay 

Producers: Tori Edgar, Denise Chan & Michael Ray 

Photographers: Trevor Jackson, Karen Foshay

Editor/Graphics: Michael Ray, Andy Viner

Get the free PBS App

Full Episodes

Upcoming Airdates

Fire Station 9

Take a rare behind-the-scenes look inside the busiest fire station in the country, where firefighters act as both primary care providers and emergency responders for the nearly 5,000 people living on Skid Row.

  • 2020-10-28T22:00:00-07:00
    KCET-HD

Heat

How hot will your neighborhood get? "SoCal Connected" looks at the ground-level effects of climate change on southern California.

  • 2020-11-04T21:00:00-08:00
    KCET-HD
  • 2020-11-07T11:00:00-08:00
    KCET-HD

The New Normal

California's wildfires are more severe and deadlier than ever before. Debates are raging as to what to do, who will pay for billions of dollars in damage and what can be done to lessen the destruction as California adjusts to its new normal: year-around fire.

  • 2020-11-11T21:00:00-08:00
    KCET-HD

Under the Influence

Influencers - they are powerful, persuasive, and they are everywhere. Marketers use them to reach you, to form what you buy, how you live, and what you do. You may not know it, but you could be living under the influence.

  • 2020-11-18T21:00:00-08:00
    KCET-HD

Jazz City

For decades Los Angeles has existed in the shadows of New York and Chicago when it comes to jazz, but that's now changing. L.A.'s jazz scene is on the upswing. Meet the people, places and sounds that are putting L.A. jazz back on the map. 

  • 2020-11-25T21:00:00-08:00
    KCET-HD