Cape Girardeau respiratory therapist helps COVID-19 patients in New York City

Cape Girardeau respiratory therapist helps COVID-19 patients in New York City

NEW YORK CITY, Ny. (KFVS) - A Cape Girardeau woman details the harrowing experiences she has had thus far helping out at a New York City hospital.

Amber Morgan has been a traveling respiratory therapist for the last couple of years before landing a job at St. Paul Lutheran School in Jackson, Mo., as a nurse administrative assistant just weeks ago.

Due to the threat of COVID-19 in Missouri, schools have shut their doors for an extended amount of time. This left Morgan with an opportunity to help people out through these uncertain times.

"I was getting the itch to help," Morgan said. "I am sitting here doing absolutely nothing to help anybody out but I'm watching the news and there is nothing I can do sitting on my butt. So, I felt I was being called to New York."

Morgan stays in a hotel in Manhattan and takes a bus every morning with other healthcare professionals who are then taken to their designated areas.

For Morgan, she helps patients out at the North Central Bronx Hospital.

“I just basically take care of ventilated patients,” Morgan said. “I intubate patients, then we put them on a ventilator. As of right now, we’re not doing treatments. We’re not doing anything that could airilize particles in the air to get anymore risk than there already is.”

She described the scene there is tough as more and more people come into the hospital without anyone being released.

"The hospitals are filling up and everybody on the floors are at their max on non-breathers," Morgan said. "So you're getting all these vents, but you're not sending them home and the hospitals don't have the rooms, the ventilators, the resources, the PPE and the staff."

Morgan said it is shocking what she is seeing and experiencing.

“It’s really hard to explain. You walk in and there’s just so much chaos and people crashing and coding,” Morgan said. “It’s something different, like somebody pouring concrete down someone’s airways. You are like suctioning thick concrete out of their lungs. It’s a hard thing to describe because I have never seen it before in my eight years of being a respiratory therapist.”

She said it’s like a war zone in there. She just checks on one patient and goes to the next patient and so on.

“It’s like, three and four patients are crashing at a time and you almost have to pick, who are you going to save first?” Morgan said. “We’re going to get to the point where there’s going to be more and more. I feel like tomorrow when I go back, all the people on the vents now, they are either going to die or they’re going to stay on the vent. We haven’t extubated one patient.”

Morgan said it takes a toll on her after seeing all the patients come in with COVID-19 and the grim outcomes with many of them. She said she will continue to do whatever she can to help though.

“Even if I am here to hold one person’s hand while they die; I don’t know,” Morgan said. “I feel protected and I feel like, even if I can save one person’s life, it’s worth it.”

Outside of the hospital, it’s still a struggle. She said she tries to get as much sleep as she can and tries to eat whatever food she can find to keep her going.

“I don’t have a refrigerator or microwave. All I have is a coffee pot so I’ve been using that to heat up my soup,” Morgan said. “I don’t have time to go out and get any food. There’s barely anything open, even around this hotel. The cafeterias at the hospitals are even shut down.”

As of Thursday, this is only her fourth day at the hospital. She is scheduled there for three weeks before coming back home.

"I felt like yesterday I was drowning. I felt defeated," Morgan said. "I felt like there is no way I can do 21 days. I need prayers. I need support because I know with that people are counting on me."

There are more than 150,000 cases of COVID-19 in the State of New York. Recently, the COVID-19 virus deaths in New York City exceeded 3,200, topping toll for the 9/11 attack in 2001.

Morgan wants to send a strong message for people to stay at home and isolate themselves to help prevent the spreading of COVID-19.

“People just don’t realize it and think they’re immune to it because they don’t see it,” Morgan said. “Even me, I thought it was kind of fake myself and it’s just exaggerated. The news doesn’t even give what I see justice...it just doesn’t. Stay at home. You’re fighting a war just by staying on your couch. So I am not understanding the problem. But I get it. It’s there perspective and I have a new perspective now from where I’m at.”

Back in Cape Girardeau and the surrounding area, she has plenty of supporters praying for her and keeping her in their thoughts.

She leaves behind her five children and a husband while out on her assignment.

“That’s the hardest part about this whole ordeal for three weeks,” Morgan said. “But I think you can do anything for three weeks and I think they’ll understand later in life.”

After her three-week assignment is done in New York City, she said she will come home to Cape Girardeau and spend some time with her five children and husband.

“I’ll have to quarantine for two weeks when I get home anyways, so I’ll have a lot of downtime when I get home to hang out with everyone,” Morgan said.

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