by Vickie Jenkins – Writer/Photographer
A big thank you to all of the nurses that volunteered to go to New York City to help care for the many patients that were battling with COVID-19. These individuals were to spend three weeks in a chaotic situation, full of the unknown. One particular nurse was Kris Buckley, who is an RN at OU Medicine.
Kris is known to be an open-minded person who likes the simple things in life. He is a hard worker and sets his goals high. He loves spending time with his family and continues to learn as much as he can, in the medical field and in his everyday life. He is a caring person and thinks of the other person first. Below, is his story of spending three weeks in New York City; caring for critically ill patients as he works with the others as they face COVID-19, putting them on the frontline. Thank you to everyone in the medical staff, for you are all true heroes.
I traveled to Manhattan for a twenty-one day assignment at Bellevue Hospital. The agency I contracted with put myself and 2000 other nurses up in a high-rise hotel in Times Square. We were bussed to the hospital every morning at 0545 and worked 13-14 hour shifts for nineteen of the twenty-one days. I was basically coming up to the room, cleaning up and going to bed so I could get up in a few hours and go straight back to the hospital.
I was floated between several COVID-19 ICU’s in the hospital. I was assigned to several rooms that were makeshift, using surgical units and old wings of the hospital. All single rooms were doubled with patients and ratio was high with nurses caring for 5-6 patients, mostly vented patients in the ICU. After the first week or so the ratios began improving due to the high number of nurses pouring in from all over the country. Eventually it was down to a manageable 1/2 or 1/3 ratio. The work was constant as the patients acuity levels were always high. Some units were not equipped with negative pressure so N-95’s or respirators were required at all times as well as hoods and goggles and gowns. Without being able to drink anything for hours at a time many nurses became dehydrated quickly, including myself. Pressure injuries were common due to PPE. Code blues occurred several time an hour. Patients were alone for weeks at a time with only healthcare staff as their companions and advocates. We were the only ones there when they were extubated and we were the only ones there when many of the patients died. New Yorkers were aware of the scale of the issue and it was evident everywhere I went. Very few people were in public, besides food delivery people and healthcare workers. Almost everybody wore masks everywhere. It would feel shameful not to. But New Yorkers were gracious. I’ve never felt so appreciated. From cheering crowds outside at shift change to random thank you’s while walking in scrubs. It was very upliftings. But coming back to Oklahoma was a culture shock. I was surprised by how carefree the public was, gathering in large groups and ignoring social group and mask recommendations. People act like the pandemic is over while rates are increasing. Our population density is smaller so the virus many spread slower, but I do fear a second major outbreak.
I learned a lot about my work but also a lot about myself. My believes of COVID-19 have evolved. I know it is more serious than I once thought. When I returned from NYC I self isolated for two weeks while my sister kept my son. After that I took a little more time to recuperate before returning to work. Now, myself and my family wear masks in public and at work just in case we become infected. We wouldn’t want to put our patients or others at risk. We practice appropriate hand hygiene and avoid large groups and busy public places. I believe the general public places. I believe the general public should follow similar practices.