When she was assigned to a New York hospital as a travel nurse at the end of last year, 31-year-old oncologist RN Alycia Daley never imagined she would be on the US episode of a global pandemic hospital that ravaged the world. Now back in Brockton, Daley described the experience as “horrible” and emphasized the importance of taking precautions such as social distancing and wearing masks.
BROCKTON – When she was assigned to a New York hospital as a travel nurse at the end of last year, Alycia Daley never imagined she would be in the episode of a global pandemic hospital that ravaged the world.
But when the health centers in the city became overwhelmed with coronavirus patients, Daley said it got so bad that staff were worried about their own safety when they saw colleagues getting sick. She even awarded one of her colleagues as her medical certificate if she tested positive and took a turn for the worse.
“I never thought I̵
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Now back in Brockton after cases in New York have decreased and taken leave before working at other hospitals to see an uptick in cases, Daley described what she witnessed as “horrible” and expressed fears that a second wave of the corona virus might cause a spiral in Massachusetts and elsewhere in the country.
“Some people feel the news looks up, but I say it was much worse than what they released in New York,” she said. “When it hits and it hurts, people around you get sick who have taken precautions – they know what to do.”
Daley first landed in New York in October through his company, Aya Healthcare, which provides nurses with temporary services around the world where short-term employees are needed. As an oncology RN, she was awarded the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center which assisted long-standing cancer patients.
She would only stay there for about three months, she said, but when the hospital first got the news about the origin of the coronavirus in China, they renewed her contract. During the first few months she was there, Daley said she would travel back to Brockton once a month – when she had a few days off – to work daycare at Good Samaritan Medical Center.
When she returned to New York the week of March 20, she saw coronavirus cases explode in the city, not knowing then that her previous trip to Brockton would be the last time she would return home in months.
“When I went back (to New York), that’s when it really hit,” she said. “That’s when they declared it was a pandemic and an emergency for everyone to protect themselves on the spot. It was like every day, it changed. “
That’s when she went into “survival mode,” she said, where each day seemed to see a different floor of COVID-19 patients as New York City transformed into a “ghost town.”
“At one point we had almost 16 floors and four ICUs, only COVID-19,” she said. “All the hospitals merged at one point. We shared supplies and shared patients just because patients die at the emergency room before they even got to see. Only too many people were ill. “
Given the virus’s news and uncertainty about how it worked, Daley said they learned more about the symptoms of the virus and how it spread through staff who became ill and reported a sense of smell months before it was identified as a symptom.
“Many patients and people who got it didn’t have a sore throat,” she said. “They had chest pain, chest tightness. That’s when we found out that people were asymptomatic. We tested patients every 72 hours and they tested negative and then suddenly positive tests. “
And while she said she saw many elderly patients respond well to treatment initially, she also saw patients under 50 without any previous conditions become extremely ill.
“People usually came and went well and then ended up on ventilators within hours,” she said. “It was scary, because you didn’t know why it happened, especially then.”
The unknowns of the virus led to fears among hospital staff, with Daley saying she was afraid to leave her apartment besides going to work and doing essential business such as grocery shopping.
“You’re scared and nervous of yourself to catch it,” she said. “We were just scared but tried to do the best we could and stay safe.”
Shortly after celebrating her 31st birthday in New York on May 20, where she worked a 13 1/2 hour shift, the number of cases dropped enough – down to a floor for COVID-19 patients and an ICU – for her to return to Brockton.
She tested negative for both the virus and the antibodies when she returned, but her experience has led her to take a break before she plans to use her experience with cases of coronavirus to help other hospitals with a flood of cases beginning in August.
“That’s why I take the two months off and I talk to a counselor, just about PTSD because I had nightmares when I first came back,” she said. “It’s scary. It’s really scary. It’s nothing you can imagine. Being in New York during that time, it’s really something that I feel you had to be there.”
In her experience, Daley emphasized the importance of wearing masks, washing hands and often sanitizing, maintaining social distance and limiting contact with others to facilitate contact tracking in a positive test result – primarily acting as if you were contagious around your loved ones, she said.
“We showed in New York that you can lower the numbers if you do this,” she said. “It works. I saw the floors become less crowded, I saw that it was true – we had fewer people who were sick, fewer people with symptoms, fewer people on ventilators.”
And although people don’t believe in wearing masks or other suggested methods to prevent transmission of the virus work, she asked: What can it hurt if it makes someone feel better, especially with the potential to save even a life?
“The more time goes by, the more we can learn,” she said. “I feel we will eventually find a treatment for it, but the longer we have, the better. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but just remain diligent and that is what I would say to my neighbors and close and dear and I would tell other people. Because it works – it’s been proven. “
Staff writer Corlyn Voorhees can be reached at [email protected] You can follow her on Twitter at @corlyn_ENT.