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'If you saw what we see... you would stay home': Jacksonville ICU nurse speaks from front lines of COVID-19 pandemic

"There are patients that are aware they are dying and they cannot have contact with family members," a Jacksonville nurse explains.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — There is no better perspective on a situation than hearing from a person who is right there on the front lines day after day.

So when Allison Dybalski, an ICU nurse here in Jacksonville, wrote a Facebook post about why young people especially need to take coronavirus seriously.- it got nearly 1,000 shares.

"If you saw what we see at the hospital, you would stay home," tells Dybalski.

That's the simple message Dybalski wants people to hear. She's been a nurse for just over two years and is currently treating COVID-19 patients at Baptist Health in downtown. She's seen infectious disease before, but knew what the disease was and how exactly to treat it. She says COVID-19 is different. There is still so much unknown about it and it has no proven treatments.

Dybalski says she felt moved to say something on Facebook after seeing posts of people not taking COVID-19 seriously and downplaying it. Especially younger people.

"Twenty-year-olds with this illness are some of the sickest patients that we have, so that's when it really hit home for me... when we had a patient close to my age," she explains. "I’m in my 20’s, this patient is in their 20s and I am seeing how sick this patient is – it becomes really real."

Her Facebook post, meant for just family and friends, got hundreds of shares which she said surprised her, but she hopes it opens people’s eyes to why social distancing measures need to be taken seriously.

She says it isn’t just the sickness that's devastating, it’s the emotional pain of patients separated from their families in what could be their final moments.

"It's really sad because I know that if it were my family member, I would want to be there as they took their last breath and it has been really hard for us to see that and see how upset these family members are and upset these patients are, because there are patients that are aware they are dying and they cannot have contact with family members," she explains.

It is a painful reality that only those on the frontlines see, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

Dybalski says she never expected to be in the middle of a pandemic when she chose to go into nursing, but she’ll keep fighting for her patients every day.

 "I’m doing what I can, I know it is a very small part of this world-wide pandemic," she says. "But I love to say that I am out there doing my best and I am going to make somebody’s day better during this pandemic."