A videographer for MaineHealth has won an Emmy award for his film that captures the anxiety and fatigue of Maine Medical Center nurses treating unvaccinated COVID-19 patients in the Portland hospital’s intensive care unit last summer.
During the 2-minute, 20-second video, Charlie Berg interviews nurses as they begin their day in the hospital’s COVID unit. The video was filmed on a day in late August 2021 during a time when the state was experiencing a surge in COVID cases involving the highly contagious delta variant.
It has been viewed more than 750,000 times since the video was posted Sept. 2, 2021, on MaineHealth YouTube channel and social media sites.
The video was posted in hopes that it would encourage more people to get vaccinated against the virus as hospitals in Maine and across the nation were getting overwhelmed with extremely ill, unvaccinated patients. Clips from Berg’s video were shown on “The Today Show” and “ABC World News,” said Berg, who lives in Saco. Berg said that on the day that he visited the ICU every patient treated in the unit was unvaccinated.
Berg and the four ICU nurses he interviewed in August traveled to Boston on June 4 to attend the 45th Emmy Awards ceremony, which was held at the Wang Theater. The 45-year-old Berg won a regional Emmy in the health and medical category.
Nurses cry, say patients tell them they regret not getting vaccinated, talk about putting patients in body bags, and in one segment, a man from South Portland laments not getting vaccinated while urging others to get their shot.“I was a little skeptical about things. There is so much information you don’t know what to believe,” the South Portland COVID patient tells Berg. “Now, I certainly believe it. You never want to get this disease. It is the worst feeling you could ever have.”
ICU nurses told Berg that patients with COVID share stories about how they did not believe COVID was real or that a person their age was somehow immune to the virus. In August 2021, ICU nurses told Berg they were treating a number of COVID patients in their 40s and 50s, many of whom were healthy before becoming infected.
“We come to work every day. And we know it’s going to be a hard day. Every day is going to be a hard day,” Kimberly Matheson, a registered nurse, told Berg. “I am just anxious about what the day is going to bring. What’s going to happen. Who is going to die.”
“We’re all tired. We all just try to take care of each other,” Britney Meunier, a registered nurse, said as her voice cracked and tears began to form. “We just want people to know that we’re still here and we’re still willing to help. But we also need help from you.”
Berg said he went to the ICU in August expecting to do a story about an unvaccinated COVID patient, but his focus shifted after Matheson and other nurses approached him about broadening the scope of his videography.
“The truth is I showed up for one day with a camera and the nurses and the front-line care teams have been doing this for two years, putting their lives on the line,” Berg said. “It was important to them that people see the needless pain and suffering that patients, families and care teams were going through when effective vaccines were available. It was important to me that the story be told.”
The four nurses featured in Berg’s video – RN Chani Marcoux, nurse practitioners Danielle Poulin, Matheson and Meunier – were introduced by Berg on stage during the Emmy award ceremony June 4. The audience gave the nurses a standing ovation.
“To us, this award is for the patients we lost, those who passed away without their families with only us there. They’re always on our minds,” Marcoux said.