We are continually humbled by the compassion and care our staff demonstrate every single day and with every single patient. Most recently, three nurses from French Hospital volunteered to go to New York City to care for and treat countless patients suffering from COVID-19. While leaving behind family and friends, these brave nurses traveled across the country to help a state that is in dire need of medical support during this global crisis. At the beginning of June, New York had over 373,000 cases with over 24,000 deaths.
Jessi Norris, a Registered Nurse who works in French Hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) and post-anesthesia recovery unit, recently shared with us why she chose to put herself potential in harm’s way to help patients in New York City.
“I was hearing on the news how bad the virus was hitting hotspots like New York, New Orleans, and Detroit. Being a critical care nurse, I knew that I had the skills that these hard-hit cities needed, so I started looking into whether I should be heading that way.”
In mid-April, Jessi and the other nurses from French Hospital – Devon Everson and Elissa Molfino – called FEMA-hired staffing companies to inquiry about helping. Just three days later, Jessi was at the airport heading to New York City.
“Arriving in New York was surreal,” says Jessi. “The streets were empty. Times Square was deserted. We got many shouts of ‘thank you for coming to help us!’ from cars and windows.”
Jessi was housed in a hotel in midtown Manhattan where a command center had been set up and was assigned to work in a 100% COVID-19 hospital. Reflecting back on her first day at the hospital, Jessi says that walking into the hospital that first day was walking into chaos.
“Every space had been turned into a COVID-19 ICU. The hospital staff was undersupplied and overworked, having been dealing with this crisis for over a month. Nurses were caring for critical patients, even if they had no ICU experience, and there were not enough critical care doctors. I was seeing the effects of an overwhelmed health care system. They needed hands, so we jumped in.”
After 15 hours a day in full PPE, Jessi and other nurses were bussed back to the hotel where they decontaminated and tried to rest before their next shift. Jessi says that there were many difficult moments caring for these critical COVID-19 patients – during her three weeks in New York City, only one of her patients was downgraded from the ICU to less acute care.
But, occasionally, there would be a good moments too – any time that a patient had their breathing tube removed and was able to breathe on their own without a ventilator it was a cause for celebration.
Overall, Jessi says that she had a very rewarding experience in New York. “It was challenging, but it showed me what I am capable of and made me proud of my profession.”
After quarantining for 14 days, Jessi returned to work at French Hospital in late May.
When asked if she had a message to share with our community based on her experience in New York, she said that she wants our Central Coast community to work together to support each other as reopening occurs. Most importantly, she wants to remind people to be safe.
“I saw the consequences of a large number of people getting sick and overwhelming a health care system. I hope our community can be careful and that we can try our best to prevent the spread while out in public by wearing masks, not touching our faces and cleaning our hands frequently. Protecting yourself doesn’t mean you are scared – it means you are proactive and care about your community.”
During these incredibly uncertain and often scary times, caregivers like Jessi, Devon and Elissa are the true heroes. We thank everyone in our community who is on the frontline going beyond to comfort and care for patients and their families.
To Jessi, Devon and Elissa – We applaud you for your amazing act of selflessness and your astounding dedication to caring for others. We are so proud and honored to have you as part of the French Hospital family.
You can help ensure French Hospital caregivers and patients alike are supported through these difficult times by contributing to our Emergency Support Fund. Learn more about our COVID-19 response or donate at supportfrenchhospital.org/emergency-support-fund.