Travel ICU Nurse Reflects on Fighting COVID-19 In New York City

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Coronavirus, Crux, Hospital, Inspiration, Media, Nurses, NYC, Queens, NY, World News

By Jessica Easthope

More than 4,000 nurses from across the country came to New York City to fight coronavirus during the height of the pandemic, Janelle Orbon is one of them.

“Watching things unfold on TV it actually was a no-brainer, that’s where I needed to be, I was fully trained and wanted to help and would have felt much worse not being there,” said Janelle, a critical care nurse from Denver, Colorado.

Janelle left Denver thinking she’d be in New York for six weeks, she stayed for three months. What she learned is that medical professionals still don’t know enough about the deadly virus.

“We don’t know what we’re up against. I don’t think anyone knows a ton about COVID,” Janelle said.

When Janelle arrived in New York City at the end of March, it was the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis. She wasted no time resuming her role as a critical care nurse at the hospital where she worked for five years.

“When I first got to New York it was the thick of it, that’s when there were still field hospitals across the street, every floor of our hospital had become a giant ICU,” Janelle said.

What struck Janelle wasn’t how many nurses came from other areas of the country, but other areas of medicine to do everything they could to save lives.

“Nurses from pediatrics from obstetrics, oncology, stepped up into roles that normally takes a nurse years to master and train for,” Janelle said.

Now, back home in Denver, Janelle says that her city has control over the big spike it saw when 122 people died on April 24.

On that same day in New York City, 437 people died. Janelle says out-of-town nurses got most of the credit when it came to fighting the virus in New York City, but she says the real heroes are the nurses who were there long before the pandemic.

“We were almost out of ventilators and the nurses on my old ICU unit said they would stay after work and manually bag breaths into patients, these are the true heroes,” Janelle said.

The gravity of Janelle’s time in New York City is still taking its toll and has changed her outlook on nursing.

“I immediately upon returning I actually talked to my boss about transitioning back into critical care full time and I’m doing that now,” said Janelle.

Janelle’s experience has taught her that what’s certain in the fight against COVID-19 is the unknown, she says she would come back in a heartbeat.