NEW YORK — Three graduate nursing students from the University of Akron have been working in New York City, a city hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to save lives and help overwhelmed health care workers.
Katie Roberts, Cody Ellis and Mike Hronec are registered nurses and graduate students in the University of Akron’s Nurse Anesthesia Program.
The three left for New York about a month ago and have been working at NYU Langone Health in Manhattan. They work in intensive care units specifically set up for COVID-19 patients.
With 48-hour weekly shifts, Roberts, Ellis and Hronec help manage ventilators, monitor patients’ blood flow and administer breathing treatments.
“These patients are some of the sickest patients I have seen,” Hronec said. “They require a great amount of care because most of them are on ventilators to help them breathe. The nurses and staff in New York City needed all the help they could get in this trying time. I felt it was my duty as a nurse to help.”
Roberts said that she felt compelled to help in New York where the immediate need for health care workers was much greater than in Ohio.
“I couldn’t quarantine in the comfort of my home thinking one person could die due to lack of staffing. I knew I would regret not helping during this epidemic and New York City had the greatest need,” Roberts said.
She said the atmosphere in New York City is completely different than in Ohio and described the drastic change in the usually booming city as feeling “almost post-apocalyptic.”
While the streets in the city may be almost empty at times, the same can not be said for the hospitals.
“The hospitals are busy because of the amount of people contracting the disease,” Hronec said. “There are no visitors allowed in the hospital. Most of these patients have not seen their family in weeks because of this.”
While the COVID-19 situation in New York is much direr than Ohio’s, there is good news to share from the student’s experience.
Roberts was working with a man who was recovering from the virus and had been in the hospital for a month, finally off sedation and able to understand what was going on. Because no visitors are allowed, the man hadn’t seen his family, and they hadn’t seen him, in 30 days.
The University of Akron student asked permission and FaceTimed the man’s wife and called his daughter, virtually reuniting the family for the first time in weeks.
“When I called his daughter, she immediately burst into tears upon seeing his face,” Roberts said. “Listening to her speak to her father for the first time and watching his expression light up. He was crying with her and I was crying with them. I called my father after getting off shift. I will never take for granted something as simple and precious as a phone conversation with my family. I feel honored to have been a part of this interaction.”
The students are dedicated to working where they are most needed to save lives with the knowledge they gained right here at home.