“What does it look like behind the walls of the hospital you may wonder? It’s hard to explain. But, with every face covered by masks you see the look of anxiety, fear and stress in the eyes of everyone you walk by. The air is heavy and it is tense. Rapid responses can be heard overhead very frequently. A dreaded call that once used to be heard far and few in between is now heard nearly every 30 minutes. Rapid response to room — anesthesia stat to room — respiratory stat to room — and in that moment you shake your head in disbelief. Another one. And, another one after that and another one after that. When will this calm down? Nobody knows.”
Those words are from Adara Abrahamsen, 28, who grew up in Warwick, attending Sanfordville Elementary and graduating from Warwick Valley High School in 2010. In December, Abrahamsen graduated from the Wagner College nursing program with a 4.0 average. She was selected from more than 400 applicants for a fellowship in surgical intensive care at a hospital in Queens. She began the career she dreamed of on Jan. 21.
“Just a short while later," Abrahamsen said, "I found myself in the midst of a pandemic."
Abrahamsen put her thoughts into words and published them on themedium.com earlier this month. Her words tell of disbelief, panic, sorrow, longing, hope.
“Home. I miss home so much. One minute I was sleeping next to the man I love. Suddenly, my schedule’s changed at 7 p.m. for the very next day. And, just like that, I was assigned to a COVID unit. I spent that night after work at a hotel room while I scrambled to find alternative living arrangements. At that time, hotels weren’t offering deals to hospital workers so I moved into an Airbnb studio apartment alone. I have not hugged the people I love in three weeks in order to protect them. At times, I feel just as isolated as these patients — alone in their rooms without any visitors. But, I know I am not alone in this struggle.”
A pull toward nursing
Abrahamsen was always interested in science growing up in Warwick and thought she would enter the medical field someday, but that’s not what happened at first. In 2014, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Dominican College.
But she knew right there at her graduation that this would not be her career path.
“I remember sitting at my college graduation and it was the nursing students’ turn to walk the stage,” said Abrahamsen. “My heart sank to my stomach and I felt such regret. It was in that moment that I decided to pursue nursing.”
She went on to work for four years as a patient care assistant at Northern Westchester, while taking the accelerated nursing prerequisites.
“I was accepted into Wagner College’s 15-month accelerated program,” she said. “I just graduated on Dec. 12, 2019. I had received an offer for a critical fellowship prior to graduating, which was contingent on passing the boards. Luckily I did on Jan. 7.”
“My heart. It aches so much. I will never forget the time a patient was rushed to the unit and a group of nurses handed the patient a phone in their room to say goodbye to the person they love and have created a life with. Their oxygen was dropping and intubating was imminent. Can you imagine having to make a call like that?”
‘We stand together’
Abrahamsen’s mom, Patty Augusta, lives in Greenwood Lake. “Her article takes your breath away,” said Augusta. “I held my breath the whole time I read it.”
She is not alone. But among the day-to-day experiences she describes, there is also hope.
“Camaraderie. The brotherhood, the sisterhood. We stand together — united. We are ALL fighting this battle and it’s a teamwork I have never seen before. Each patient as critical and heavy as the next, but each nurse volunteers themselves and their precious critical time to help a coworker in need. ‘What can I get you?’ ‘What can I help you with’ is frequently heard among us. This is not just nurse to nurse. This is nurse to doctor, to respiratory therapist, to housekeeper. Everyone.”
Augusta said her daughter first studied psychology, PTSD specifically, because of her uncle who died in Afghanistan. “She has a unique perspective on the world around her. She is a special person,” noted Augusta, calling herself “a super proud mom.”
Can we help?
Abrahamsen has been asked “What can we do to help?” She said there are small ways to help and there are big ways. Small ways like sending protein bars or snacks to your local hospital, noting most of the staff do not have time for a lunch break anyway. She encourages parents to have their kids make and send cards to hospital staff. Donate materials to those sewing masks.
The big thing?
“Do you wanna know what would be extremely helpful? Student loan forgiveness for healthcare workers. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. The amount of money most of us owe could knock your breath away. I’m not kidding when I say it keeps me up at night. Please advocate to your local legislators. Help us.”
Oh yes, and one more thing.
“And, stay home. It’s really that simple, just stay home.”
(To read Adara Abrahamsen’s full story, go to https://email@example.com/im-a-nurse-at-the-epicenter-of-this-pandemic-3fe3820d6e66.)