Gloria Beasley has seen a lot during her 26 years of nursing. The Tifton resident currently works as an ICU nurse at the hospital in Tifton, formerly known only as Tift Regional Hospital. It recently underwent a name change, and it, along with Cook Medical Center, are now known as Southwell.
As an ICU nurse, Beasley is accustomed to receiving and caring for patients once they have been cared for and treated by routine hospital staff. Once their condition reaches a stage where they need to be more closely monitored and care becomes a higher priority, that’s where nurses like Beasley step in.
She has seen the worst of the worst, from car accidents to heart attack patients and people with the flu. But, according to Beasley, nothing in her career comes close to what she has observed over the past couple of months with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Beasley was born and raised in Tifton, and she currently resides there with husband Ken Beasley, a local gun store owner. They have three grown children and four grandkids. She said her interest in becoming a nurse was planted years ago by a relative when she was 21. At the time, she didn’t act on the suggestion and for good reason. Beasley was dedicated to raising her then-young children and wanted to stay at home with them as much as possible, while at the same time helping with supporting the family along with Ken. Beasley decided to open a daycare, which she ran for almost six years.
After a few years of taking care of her own children as well as those of other parents, Beasley decided to act on that suggestion from her relative.
“I felt like it was time for me to get out and do something for myself,” Beasley said. “I had always thought about the suggestion from my former sister-in-law that I should become a nurse.”
Beasley began attending night classes at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, and she also did some part-time work in the ICU during the day. The hospital appreciated her quality of work and hired her straight out of school. Armed with experience and her nursing degree, she began working full time at Tift General Hospital as a nurse in the ICU unit, where she has remained since day one.
Beasley remembers one day hearing on the television about a new virus that had originated in China, but was spreading world wide, including throughout the United States. It was being referred to as a coronavirus. Beasley said that she and her coworkers were briefed on the virus, what symptoms to look for, and the warning signs.
Beasley remembers her first COVID-19 patient.
“It was an elderly woman who had come to the hospital with a fever and shortness of breath,” Beasley said. “She came in, and we could hear her mumbling something, but it was barely intelligible. We were asking her questions, asking if she was trying to tell us something, and that’s when she said she was singing Christian hymns. She was telling us that the Lord was going to take care of her and she was going to be fine and would be going home real soon.”
Beasley said like most patients, especially at that time with the virus still a novelty of sorts with the public, her patient had no idea just how sick she really was. Beasley’s shift ended, and a few days later, when she returned, the staff told her that same patient had passed away.
“It made me very sad,” Beasley said. “People just have no idea how bad this virus really is. For many of them, especially when they reach the ICU, it’s very serious.”
Beasley said that in the beginning it was mostly elderly patients that were being admitted to the hospital with symptoms of COVID-19. But, she said there are younger patients being treated for the virus too.
“We have treated 40-year-old patients and some even younger, but the majority is indeed elderly,” Beasley said.
She said she and her ICU co-workers are always concerned for their own safety and take extra precautions to guard themselves against the dangerous virus, including wearing respirators when entering a patient’s room.
Beasley said that by judging the public’s reaction, one of her biggest fears is how little people really understand about the virus.
“My biggest concern is that people just don’t realize how serious this virus really is,” she said. “What this virus does to the human body is just unbelievable.
“I have seen what it does. It gives patients coagulation issues, high fever for days and sometimes weeks with no relief. People are left gasping for breath. It is awful.”
What advice does Beasley have?
“Wear your masks,” she said.
That’s solid advice from the front lines.