AS MUCH of Bendigo slept, Karla Mulready was awake at 2am watching Youtube videos of ventilator intubations in Wuhan.
It was March, and the Bendigo Health critical care nurse was part of a small team preparing for what the COVID-18 pandemic could bring.
Later Mrs Mulready was one of the health workers keeping critically ill COVID-19 patients alive.
Pandemic preparation meant 10 hour days, for about a month, readying the hospital for the virus to hit.
The team simulated up to 10 COVID-safe intubations a day in full protective gear, to see what worked and what didn't.
Mrs Muldready credited this intense practice with the success of all the hospital's COVID-19 intubations, including the first.
"It was a really nice feeling to know that the policy we had done worked," she said.
"We could put our money where our mouth was. This policy it worked, it was a perfect intubation, she ventilated well, it was safe, there was no mistakes.
"It just showed all that practice that it did working out how it was going to be, paid off."
Preparing the pandemic team had changed nearly all their procedures to be COVID-safe.
Intubation involved some of the biggest changes. Nearly everything about a normal procedure was altered to keep staff safe.
That extra fear of making a mistake was very much there, and I think probably felt over the whole team.Karla Mulready
Normally six to 10 people would be involved. The COVID-safe procedure used just four.
Simulating this was what led Mrs Muldready to the 2am Youtube videos. After spending the day practicing something, but not quite getting it right, she would go home and research how it was done overseas.
Since March Mrs Muldready has done two COVID-19 positive intubations.
Both times they only had one shot to do it, because COVID-19 meant the patient would go downhill fast.
Mrs Mulready said she had easily assisted at hundreds of intubations, but this one was scary, both personally and professionally.
"If something goes wrong, as nurses we don't want any harm to patients, but we know how quickly they can deteriorate because of COVID," she said.
"But if I make a mistake, am I going to now end up with COVID? Do I then not get to go home to my kids because we've had a breach in the tube and something really bad's happened?
"That extra fear of making a mistake was very much there, and I think probably felt over the whole team."
They still practice the procedure fortnightly, because it needs to be fresh.
Treating COVID-19 patients was grueling.
Mrs Mulready worked three night shifts over Easter, basically alone in a closed room, in full personal protective equipment. She couldn't drink, she couldn't take a break, the gear was uncomfortable.
She also had to predict three steps ahead what the patient would need, because it took extra time to get anything into the room.
Anything that happened, Mrs Mulready would be on her own for six minutes before anyone else could come into the room.
Mrs Mulready said if she could share anything with the Bendigo community it would be just how sick COVID-19 can make you, and just how important masks are.
"If you get to us, if you get to ICU ... it is around the clock here trying to keep you alive," Mrs Mulready said.
"I've cried pre-intubating some of these patients when we've had them on the phone to their loved ones, and it is saying goodbye."
"The amount of times that I've had to Facetime some of the family members [of people] that have been in here, and just tears, but I can't tell [them] if they're going to make it to the other side. I don't know."
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