GREAT FALLS — Bailey Reighard was working as a nurse in Great Falls when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Reighard said in March she started receiving emails from hospitals over-run with COVID-19 that needed more staff. Seeing the greater need around the country, she became a traveling nurse.
Reighard first began her travels in Chicago, then came back to Montana to work in Billings, and currently is working in Arizona.
She says her experience on the frontlines of the COVID ICU has been brutal.
“I think I had one patient live out of Chicago. I mean at one point we ran out of linens so we were just using body bags as sheets because they were going to die anyways," Reighard said.
"We were loading them into the cooling trucks out in the parking lot. Like all that stuff, it was happening. It was real, it wasn’t just the media blowing it up, we were actually doing these things,” Reighard continued.
Reighard recalls one patient she will never forget.
“A 27-year old male, so he’s a year older than I am. Intubated with COVID and we had to withdraw care. So the family decided from just talking with the doctors that he wasn’t going to make it. So I remember on Zoom we make the patient comfortable and everything. We take his breathing tube out and he died very quickly."
"The mom is sobbing and wailing. I will not ever forget her screams but then his little brother came in to hug and console his mom and he looked just like my younger brothers. So it was hard because it’s like this could be me.”
Reighard grew up in Butte and after becoming an RN she took a job at Benefis Health System in Great Falls. When March rolls around Reighard will be back in Montana working at Great Falls Clinic in the Cardiology department.
“I’ll be back in Great Falls in the Cath lab. Which I’m excited about, it’s an area I’ve always wanted to kind of explore, work in. I just didn't think I’d be doing it this early in my nursing career. I’ll miss the ICU but I’m kind of relieved that I’m almost done. I’m almost done with COVID,” said Reighard.
Her mother Ida said watching her daughter have her experience with COVID was hard. Now, she couldn’t be more happy to have her daughter back in her home state soon.
“I think she’s gotten it out of her system so to speak and I think she’s ready to come home with her experience. So I feel better that it’s gone full circle that she was able to learn about the sadness and the hard parts and grow from that.“