AUSTIN (KXAN) — A local healthcare worker is now stationed in New York City working to save lives at a packed hospital in Brooklyn.
Julie Sullivan is a respiratory therapist, providing life support to help COVID-19 patients breathe. She says there was no way to physically or mentally prepare for what she’s experiencing in one of the hardest-hit cities in America.
“I know I’m not a soldier. I don’t want to compare myself to a hero like that, but it’s like being in a war zone when you go into those hospitals,” Sullivan said. “It’s just mentally, emotionally and physically draining, what we are doing.”
Sullivan decided to leave her hospital in Austin after she heard the call for help from her friends in New York. She signed up with a staffing agency to pair her with the current hospital in Brooklyn. She also answered a survey from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office to volunteer at a county hospital. She’ll do that five times in eight hour shifts.
She said there are a number of daily factors that take a toll on the staff. The most easily noticeable is the rate in which they go through personal protective equipment, also known as PPE.
“They bring in PPE by the sack-loads but there are so many of us and so many patients are coming in that we just go through it like crazy,” Sullivan said. “It’s like telling a soldier that you signed up to go to war but not giving them the ammo they need to defend themselves or fight for our country.”
The greatest heartache for her, she shared, was taking care of patients, only to see them pass shortly after. She mentioned that family members aren’t allowed on the grounds, so many of these people are dying without loved ones nearby.
“You have loved ones at home that we are trying to call while we are resuscitating their family member to let them know what is going on,” Sullivan said through tears. “The people that are there are sick and dying all alone. They have no family that can come in and protect them.”
But Sullivan expressed her heartfelt appreciation for the people constantly thanking her. She smiled as she explained the daily tradition of New Yorkers crowding their balconies to cheer on healthcare workers.
Her friends, family and fellow Texans have also expressed their love from afar. She plans to share that compassion with everyone she can, for as long as she can.
“If I stay healthy, I just may end up following the virus and helping the people out in other cities,” Sullivan said. “This is where I am needed right now and things will work down the road.”
Sullivan says she has committed to two months of working in Brooklyn. After that, she says she plans to see where her services will be needed next.
Helping New York
The reason people like Sullivan can go to New York is because Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended or altered a lot of rules through emergency powers.
Doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and other technicians from other states are now allowed to work in New York.
As long as they are licensed, they can be put to work to help in hospitals.
Here in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott has not had to resort to such an extreme move. But, there have been emergency orders taken to help the health care system.
Most recently, regulations were eased to allow Physicians-in-training to help out more.
There are number of health care workers who have completed their requirements, but had not yet received their licenses. They can now enter the workforce with an emergency license.
The Governor also waived certain hospital licensing rules to free up more bed space across Texas.