Laurie McElwain of Claremore has been a nurse for more than 20 years. She worked NICU at St. Francis, but after her husband ended up in ICU, she changed specialties and currently works in Intensive Care at Hillcrest Claremore, as well as NICU and ICU at Hillcrest Medical Center. She is one of our everyday unsung heroes, especially now.
When the coronavirus emerged, Laurie and her fellow nurses were not provided with proper PPE. Laurie decided to be grateful that she had a job. When she cared for a patient that she knew personally, she realized she had the capabilities to do more. Along with her friend Jessica Moss, a Tulsa nurse, she signed up with American Mobile, and the two women are currently on assignment at New York-Presbyterian Queens. They left Oklahoma on April 18.
Laurie and Jessica
Having never been to New York City before, Laurie’s friend Pam in New York was an invaluable help. They spent three days looking for housing, and found a gorgeous apartment in Astoria, located six miles from the hospital. The women are taking turns paying the monthly rent. With the NYC traffic dwindled to virtually non-existent, it only takes about 15 minutes to get to the hospital. They leave for work at 6:15 a.m. and get home around 8:30 p.m. Hertz donated a free rental car and the hospital provides three meals per day, plus water.
Laurie at the end of the first day
Laurie and Jessica are working four 12-hour shifts per week. All areas of the hospital have been converted to critical care units for COVID-19 patients. Laurie said, “I have never seen so many people so sick. There are lots of codes, and lots of deaths. There is only a 10% survival rate if a patient is intubated.”
The New York hospital staff has been kind and welcoming, grateful for the extra help. The nurses were caring for six extra critical patients at a time, when it should be a 1:1 ratio.
“This is getting hard to see every single day,” Laurie said. “Tonight I held an iPad so family could say goodbye. So far, I have not seen a patient leave ICU except in a bag. Jessica has, though: one. This disease is brutal. Patients are on the vent with chest tubes and CVVH (CRRT). They have so many lines with countless drips. Several have hemorrhagic strokes. My patient today was bleeding from every orifice. They’re on nitric and oscillators. Our faces hurt from wearing our N-95 all day and we are dripping with sweat. On a lighter note, I got some spray deodorant and cover my entire body with it before I get dressed. It worked pretty well.”
Laurie’s post on May 2, 2020
Laurie said, “Our hospital plays Don’t Stop Believing every time a patient leaves. It helps us make it through another shift.”
Laurie’s post on May 4, 2020
Laurie is grateful that she is able to help out in this time of need. She solely credits God for the opportunity to serve others right now, far away from home.
There is no “thank you” big enough for our healthcare workers and first responders who are battling the coronavirus on the front lines. They are truly our unsung heroes. We wish Laurie and Jessica a safe and speedy return to Oklahoma.
-by MCM staffer Ashley