By Kendall Patterson
Nurses everywhere knew that during their careers, they wanted to help people and save lives. They were aware that they would be in the midst of illness and surrounded by people needing to be treated. Nonetheless, I’m sure that most, like local travel nurse Tina Brea, did not expect to be engaging in the field of the new, deadly Coronavirus that has taken on the world.
Brea, 38 years old, found herself not only on the frontlines of COVID-19 but also in one of the worst places it has hit in the United States – New York City.
“I became a nurse to help people. I became an ICU nurse because I liked that atmosphere. I thrived in the chaos. Yes, this is a little bit more than just chaos. This is a little much, and it’s overwhelming,” Brea said. “You don’t imagine seeing anything like this in your last time. I never thought I would be doing anything like this.”
The boisterous, crowded streets of New York City that you are used to imagining when you picture the city are not that way now with the state being under lockdown from the virus.
Brea is living in Times Square while she works, and the atmosphere is the opposite of what it normally is.
“It’s pretty empty. I’m staying in Times Square and there’s hardly anybody here. Very few cars. All the stores are closed. It’s definitely not the New York City that you think of,” she said.
When COVID-19 struck the nation, Brea was working in Massachusetts.
Her and her coworkers have seen plenty of cases of the Coronavirus, but nowhere near the amount that New York was getting.
The hospital she worked at in a suburb of Boston began having to send beds to New York to help cover the mass number of cases.
Eventually, she felt the call to action when New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio, started urging for help.
“Listening to the news, the mayor just pleading, begging, for help; help on all fronts.
‘It’s getting worse by the day and it’s going to continue to get worse. We haven’t seen the worst,’ and I just felt that,” she said. “This was a time that I could do something. I have a skillset. I can make a difference.”
“My family is home. They are safe. And not only the patients here, but the nurses, they need relief. They need help. Nobody has ever seen anything like this before. Nobody can be prepared for this. You don’t sign up thinking that this is what you’re going to be doing,” she continued.
“I wanted to do my part. I felt compelled to come here and do what I could… I wanted to play my part and do the most good.”
Brea and all the other nurses around the world, though they have the proper equipment to stay healthy in the midst of diseases and illness, risk their lives to save others.
Nonetheless, nurses like her still run to the fight to treat people. They’re used to it, and she likes to see when nurses come together to do their jobs.
“You know you’re scared of exposure, but we have proper PPE (personal protective equipment). This isn’t the first time I’ve taken care of infectious diseases. Those have existed for a long time, so there’s always been at times risks,” she said. “Most nurses will tell you, unless its scabies or something like that, they run right in, so it’s just kind of part of the course; part of the job. But to see so many nurses come together to try to help, that’s nice.”
Her husband, Nate Saunders, is worried about her being in New York but knows its where she needs to be.
“I’m scared about the situation with her, but I believe she’s going for the right reasons and she’s going to be able to do a lot of good,” he said. “We (him and their four kids) wish she could be around, but we completely understand why she’s doing it.”
Brea, and mostly all other nurses, do not do their job for praise, but because they care for people.
“You don’t do it for yourself. You do it for others. Nurses, we try to fix everybody,” she said.
Brea does appreciate the gratitude people have shown to nurses and others on the frontlines whether it be in person, on the news or on social media.
“The outpour of support and love and prayers has been phenomenal,” she said.
Chester County residents can really see the presence of it all in their own community.
“Our community has been above and beyond. We saw that with Mr. Lewis. We take care of our own, and so it really warms my heart to just see the love and support that I’ve received from people just knowing that I’m here,” Brea said.
Being at the epicenter of the nation’s Coronavirus cases and deaths, Brea knows the effect the virus can have on people and encourages everyone to take precaution at all costs.
“The numbers are going up. I’d stay at home,” she said.
“Even some of the essential businesses that have to remain open, do you really have to go? Is it something you really need? Stay home. That’s really all we can do right now, the way this thing spreads… Do your part and stay home.”