NEWTON — LaShay Rhodes was a nurse working from home and feeling restless until she picked up the phone to call an agency and inquire about where she could be of more help as the nation faces COVID-19.
The Newtonian is now living in a hotel in New York City, working in the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.
“My full-time job has me working from home. I felt spoiled as a nurse, with people really busting their butts on the front lines,” Rhodes said.
She called an agency in Overland Park that put her on a VIP list. She expected to wait for a while before hearing back, but the call came in just two hours. She was headed to New York. In about 48 hours she packed, flew across the country, checked into a hotel and got her first assignment.
She joined between 900 and 1,000 nurses from across the nation in that hotel, all of whom were there as volunteers to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak. She started work at a nursing home facility, where there was little to no protective equipment.
After speaking to the agency, she was given a new assignment in a metro hospital filled with COVID-19 patients. Her first night she worked in a makeshift ICU — a converted post-acute-care unit. Her shift started with seven patients, each of whom was confirmed as positive for coronavirus.
She spoke about her experience on Facebook live the next morning.
“They were pretty critical,” Rhodes said. “I was very lucky. We were able to maintain everyone in my area. We did not lose a patient in my area on my shift. There were codes started in the hospital in different area. I felt lucky to have that opportunity. It is hard to sit back and watch those patients struggle like that, but we did everything that we could.”
She will be back in that hospital for 16 consecutive nights. Last week, the COVID-19 death toll in New York surpassed the death toll of 9/11.
“I cant stand seeing these nurses walking off their shift and coming back so defeated,” Rhodes said. “The nurses here in New York are excellent and they deal with critical cases. The staff has dealt with the coronavirus for a long time. Some of them are getting sick, or they are so burned out with the high acuity.”
Normally the nurse-to-patient ratio is around 1:1, or 2:1. However, right now in New York, that ratio is more like 1:11, which Rhodes calls “extremely dangerous.”
“It is constant running. The priority is to keep (people) alive,” Rhodes said. “They are tired. They are mentally and physically exhausted. Death starts to wear on you after a while.”
Despite pleas, and demands, from her family to come home, she has no intention of cutting the trip short.
“I know that I am supposed to be here, though I do not know why,” Rhodes said. “I want to help the nursing staff here and the people here.”
This week she delivered a message to her brother about his two children.
“You need to get them masks and get them comfortable wearing them,” Rhodes said. “I am so used to it now I almost miss mine when I am not wearing it.”