SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5 ) - It's often assumed when COVID patients die, they've been on a ventilator or have been intubated. But HonorHealth said that's not always the case.
When medicine can no longer cure, and when cords and machines have become their entire life, nurse Sandy Mazzio may never be ready but is committed to her patients when they're ready to let go.
"The patient just can't fight anymore," Mazzio said. "We play music on our phones, and we hold their hands. It's really just hard to grasp again that someone can consciously come to that decision."
Mazzio is head of Honor Health's "End of Life" program for the COVID patients who have maxed out on respiratory support and do not want to be put on a ventilator or intubated. That's when she and her team start "comfort care."
"Comfort care is a medication that we give to alleviate the symptoms of passing, the panic, and anxiety," Mazzio said.
Because these patients are conscious, they know what's happening around them. Mazzio and her nurses bring in an iPad so families can Skype in to say their goodbyes, and the team stays with the patient until their very last breath.
"We tell them everything is going to be okay, that it's alright to go," she said.
It's never the outcome Mazzio hopes for, but it's become a choice many more patients have made amid this surge in COVID cases.
"One, two a day, yesterday we had three," she said.
But Mazzio said the heartache is also accompanied by a sense of pride — pride that their patients pass with dignity, love, and support and are not dying alone. Families are forever thankful.
"We got a letter this week. It was the most beautiful letter that thanked us for giving them that gift to be able to see, and be present with their mother, and know that we were there with her as she was passing," she said.
And that's what keeps Mazzio's faith strong, that her care means the world to others and that better days are to come.