By Denise Koch

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — More than 10,000 Marylanders are now dead from COVID-19 after a year and a half of exhausting, heart-wrenching, often discouraging work by the doctors, nurses and therapists on the front lines of the battle against the virus.

And they are, literally, worn out.

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“My coworkers and across the nation, the nurses, and respiratory therapists, and physicians, everybody across the spectrum they’re tired and exhausted,” said Louie Lee, a senior critical care nurse at Shock Trauma. “They’re mentally broken in a way I don’t think anybody has had a chance to confront.”

“It’s been tough,” said Michael Gray, a respiratory therapist. “A lot of people are fatigued and worn out. It’s a lot to deal with.”

“We’re now seeing people that are young, very young, and don’t have to die,” Lee said.

Lee and Gray treat the most critically ill Covid patients — those already on a ventilator. For a year and a half, they’ve tried to save the lives of those who, if they do survive, will likely have lasting effects from the disease.

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“The sickest of the sick are all unvaccinated. I have not gotten one vaccinated patient who has been near death,” said Gray.

The hardest part, Lee says, is knowing that new deaths could have been prevented.

“Initially seeing all the people when there were no vaccines come in and die in front of you, feeling like you can’t help them was what I think we initially thought was the darkest time,” said Lee. “But now that the vaccine is out there and we’ve started to make a break-through and unfortunately back-sliding.”

Gray had simple advice for those who aren’t yet vaccinated.

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“Don’t wait until it’s too late,” said Gray. “I know a lot of people wish they were vaccinated once they get very sick. Don’t wait.”