On Friday, Grayville resident Chrissy Chapman, a contracted travel nurse that works through an agency, set on her way to spend 13 weeks in New York City to help the nursing staff at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens. It was confirmed last Thursday morning for her to begin work this week at a pediatric hospital in Queens, but upon her arrival over the weekend, she learned she’d be working in the Adult Intensive Care Unit, with occasional work in the Emergency Room and/or the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Long Island Jewish.
“It’s been a whirlwind!”
She said, “I’m going for 13 weeks, staying in a hotel, or extended stay in Long Island,” when the Navigator spoke to her last Thursday. “I’m just trying to pack for three seasons; I’ll be there for winter, spring and summer,” indicating that she is packing in hopes to have at least one day off each week while in New York.
“Maybe it’s selfish of me; and sometimes I think it is kind of selfish, that I’m going to do it, but I don’t think about it that I’m going to die,” she disclosed.
“But I’m also not thinking that I’m not immune to it. I know what I’m going to-I know what we’re going into, but at the same time, I also know that I’ll take precautions, and I will do what I need to do to be safe the way I need to be.”
Chrissy has been a nurse for nearly 20 years-focusing mostly on pediatrics throughout her career, but she mentioned that she’s worked in adult intensive care and the ER in the past. Her previous experience as a flight nurse-providing emergency critical care at the scene of an accident and/or hospital-level care as patients are transported by helicopter, are skills highly sought after and will serve Chrissy well during her time in New York working with patients of all ages.
“Is this a scary thing? Yes, it is a scary thing…it’s a scary time, it’s a scary thing: I’m walking into a fire-but I’m being what I know how to be. I’m being a nurse.”
After her arrival in New York, she found out her place of duty had changed. Chrissy said, “it’s starting to get a little stressful not knowing what I’m walking into, but it’ll be alright.”
“Normally, I have an idea when I’m travelling; where I’m going, what I’m going in to…I couldn’t even tell you how many beds are in the unit-only because I can’t find it, and they [the travel nurse agency] didn’t know.”
She continued, “not to make it sound even scarier for my husband, but I don’t know what I’m walking into. I don’t know how sick [people] are, how sick they aren’t, how full they are, how busy they are. I kind of just have to figure it out…when I walk into the hospital.”
Her husband, Greg Chapman, admitted that he thought the whole COVID-19 situation was blown out of proportion originally. However, his tune has changed with his wife going to New York City. “It’s concerning…my biggest concern for her going over there is (and we’ve had a conversation about that again this morning)-it’s not that she can’t do her job or that she’s not going to be effective at what she does-it’s that there’s no cure.”
“I’m not going to say cured, because I really don’t believe that this whole virus thing is going to go away.”
Greg believes that the next few months will be challenging for everyone to combat COVID-19. “I think…that this virus is going to be so prevalent…that you can’t get rid of it, before the season starts all over again.”
“And when it starts all over again, and it starts to expand, it could be a lot worse, next time around.” Which is why, in Greg’s opinion, that some kind of vaccine or some way to treat it needs to be found sooner rather than later. Not many would disagree with that opinion.
Chrissy tried to dispel some of the negative vibes by focusing on a positive one: “right now, I am being called to do something I have never done before but I have faith and trust God will watch over us.”
The New York Metropolitan Area is the hardest hit in the country for positive cases and deaths. The Tri-State region has over 74,000 positive cases as of Tuesday morning. Though the City of New York’s testing capacity increased to about 6,000 tests per day starting this week, Chrissy’s dedication to help is assuredly needed in the area.
According to the New York State Department of Health, as of March 26, 52,000+ healthcare workers, including retirees and students, have signed up to volunteer to work as part of the state's surge healthcare force during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has called on health care professionals, schools of public health or medicine and PPE products providers and manufacturers to come forward to support the state’s response: “it's going to be hard, it's going to be disruptive, but we will get through this together.”
Chrissy was so overwhelmed by all the love and support of her friends and family through everything. A sweet friend from the church made her 30 masks to take with her to NYC. “She made a lot of cute ones. The people under her care for the next 13 weeks should get a measure of joy each time they see Nurse Chrissy with her masks on.
These masks so graciously donated to her will thankfully supplement the scarce PPE Chrissy will be issued in New York. She mentioned that she heard Cuomo on the news saying New York did have PPE. Chrissy also noted the hospitals are rationing, “supposedly you’ll be given one N95 [mask] while you’re there, unless it gets soiled or ruined.” To last the whole 13 weeks? Probably. The actual lifespan of an N95 mask is one generally patient/one shift. “N95’s are hard to come by,” she confirmed.
Greg, however, has a different view than Chrissy on the current pandemic crisis-as well as his wife entering the “devil’s lair.”
He said, “…I’m going to be worried about her-as I have been since this whole thing started, because I knew that eventually she was going to go onto an assignment somewhere she was going to be at an increased risk of contracting this stuff.”
“I just didn’t expect it to be the epicenter where this whole mess is at. I just didn’t. But, I also know her: and when she comes to me, and she says, “what do you think?””
“Well, I’m not going to tell her no, because if I tell her no, then she gets to be Stands with Fists on ‘Dances with Wolves’…” which caused Chrissy to laugh at his reference.
“So I simply tell her; and I mean it-I’m going to support her, but I’m also not going to give up my opinion about the matter…that I want her here with me. Or at least not in a situation where she has exposed herself to 25-30 percent increase in chance of contracting this.”
Conveying his passion, Greg continued, “she is going to be walking into…the devil’s lair, because she’s walking right into all that stuff and she wants to do that-and I get that, but I don’t like it. I don’t like it because I’m being selfish-she’s my wife, and I want her here with me. I get that she wants to be out there helping and taking care of people.”
“But what’s going to happen if I don’t have her here? Which is a very real possibility.”
Greg said that this assignment is very different than any of the past ones Chrissy has taken. Previously, they would both make the time to meet up somewhere to see one another near wherever she was working. But this time, he lamented, “…can’t do that.” This caused both Chrissy and Greg to reflect on the ongoing situation for a moment.
Then, while discussing what happens at the end of the 13 weeks, Greg wondered if they’d even let her out of New York. Or, “…as wild as it might seem,” he started, “I don’t know if she’s going to come back because we-both of us-are right on the fringe of that group of folks that are at a higher risk if we contract it, of not coming back, not surviving it-both of us. She won’t like me saying that, but that’s the truth. And then on top of that, if she does get to come back, she’s going to have to quarantine for two weeks somewhere…”
When questioned about these concerns, Chrissy said “If I get sick, well, I’ll be stuck alone by myself for two weeks and that’s his big thing. I said to him, “well, if I was here, you wouldn’t be able to get to me, either.””
“If she contracts it, I can’t get in to see her,” he said adamantly.
Greg’s passion about his feelings and opinions were raw-vibrant, even. Chrissy admitted she had tried numerous times to assuage his fears; “I know what to do. I know how to protect myself, my family. I know when to step back.”
“Maybe it is a little selfish to go…nursing and healthcare providers-or any kind of healthcare provider, whether you’re a respiratory therapist, a CNA, a doctor-it’s a calling…not everybody’s going to do what I’m going to do. Not everybody’s going to be a teacher or anything else…this is just something we do, and something I’ve done for 20 years and something that I’m very passionate about.”
Returning to the topic of a cure, Greg explained how he felt that there is no proven cure yet; if Chrissy were to get sick, there’s nothing out there that can heal her. “The only thing that heals it is, if you’re lucky. That’s just the way the dice are rolling right now.”
“She gets adamant about the fact that “well, you don’t worry about it all the time whenever I’m exposed to influenza…hepatitis C…”” he disclosed.
He continued, “you want to know why I’m not worried about those things? Because they have a cure for those…medication, they have treatment for those.” The only treatment they have for this right now is to plug you in to a respirator and hope you pull through. That’s it…as bleak as that sounds.”
“…So all the fluff and the rainbows and ponytails and all this other stuff that we got going on in the world about how well we’re going to take care of people, I’m dealing with the reality of it: and that’s what scares the hell out of me.”
“And that’s why I don’t like the idea of her going, but: I’m still going to support her. And I’m going to tell her that I love her and I’m going to tell her that I support her, but I’m also going to tell her I don’t like it,” he concluded.
Chrissy understood his concern, just as Greg understood her need to go into the midst of the chaos.
Greg said publicly, “the amount of courage and commitment it takes to do this is something I am extremely proud of. As a nurse, my wife is committed to serving in any capacity she can to help stem the tide of this on-going threat,” even as he was struggling with Chrissy’s decision.
Chrissy’s Facebook page has been filling up with well wishes, motivation, inspiration and support from family and friends for nearly a week now. Her two daughters have supported her decision, which means a lot to Chrissy.
Mark Milligan, a friend of Chrissy’s since high School in San Antonio, told her, “Can’t thank you and others enough for your efforts to fight this battle.” He then told her that when he washes his hands, he recites the Lord’s Prayer, adding on the names of those he knows on the front lines. That list keeps growing, he noted.
Chrissy is excited to come home already; her oldest daughter’s wedding was postponed due to COVID-19 social distancing concerns, and the wedding has been rescheduled for November. “It’s at a beautiful venue in Texas,” she shared.
Her younger daughter also had a setback due to the current pandemic: her ship out date for Army basic training was pushed off a month. “She’s still excited to go,” Chrissy shared.
Chrissy has driven around NYC trying to get her bearing already. She did comment on how she expected the streets to be empty, but was sadly disappointed that the roadways were crowded and too many people were still milling about in Times Square. “At this rate, the virus will never be stopped.” She also shared that she had a run-in with a friendly New Yorker about her driving skills shortly after her arrival.
“I may have stopped over the cross walk a little too far but I was trying to see where I was going. Needless to say, a nice New Yorker starting yelling and pointing at me. On most days I say, “oops, I’m sorry.” But not today.” She said she promptly rolled down her window and told the person they should be following Cuomo’s NY State on PAUSE order.
All this was her introduction to New York City, yet she attended orientation at Long Island Jewish Medical Center with a smile, and will start fighting the good fight there this week. Stay safe, Chrissy!
“I’m going to do what I know how to do: be a nurse! I learned something when I became a flight nurse from some great leaders, coworkers and pilots. My safety comes first and I will go home at the end of the day. I keep these words close to my heart. So I promise to be vigilant and safe. When this is over I will return safely return to my family.”