COVID-19 ICU nurse tells UAB’s story as no one else can

A UAB nurse was the only resource for sharing what life was like inside the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at UAB Hospital.
Video production by Laura Gasque

During the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, many hospitals tightened restrictions on visitors and who could access certain areas, due to exposure concerns and health precautions. This meant no photographers, videographers or others could visually document what was happening inside COVID-19 intensive care units.

However, one UAB Medicine nurse answered the call, and provided Birmingham, Alabama and the entire nation a rare look at the front lines inside UAB Hospital’s COVID ICU.

“Some of us were talking in the command center, and what we really wanted to do was showcase all of the great work and challenges our nurses, staff, physicians and providers were doing every day at the bedside,” said Amanda Chambers, MSN, a senior director of Nursing Services at UAB Hospital. “They asked if I could start taking some real-life shots of our staff working in our COVID areas.”

Chambers says having a nurse taking pictures really made it a seamless process.

“I blended into the background, and I knew what they were doing so I was able to help highlight what they wanted,” she said. “We wanted the public to see the frontline battle against COVID.”

Chambers recalls her first impressions of the COVID units.

“I think the first real experience for me was it was extremely complex,” she said. “It was hot, and it was uncomfortable with all of the appropriate protective equipment on; but the other thing that I saw was really a sadness for the lack of any family involvement in those areas. When you went in there, it was really just to help your team there with those patients, and that can be some of the scariest and most intimate moments.”

Although she has been a nurse at UAB for years, having a barrier verbally and visually was a stark reminder of the situation she and her colleagues were in.

“I can only imagine what our patients are seeing,” she said.

Chambers became a window to the world in late 2020 when her photos were featured on ABC’s “World News Tonight With David Muir.” She says her colleagues were excited and thankful that millions were able to see a glimpse into daily life at UAB.

“[My co-workers] have been really thankful and really proud that our profession has been able to be highlighted on a national level,” she said. “The nation has been able to see behind the curtains into our COVID units and what it is really like for patients and ourselves, so they definitely have been very excited and energized when they have seen, maybe not only themselves, but a colleague or someone they know on the national front and highlighted the care they have been able to deliver.”

Chambers continues to be a major resource for UAB. View more of her photos below.