Grocery store employees are working around the clock to keep shelves stocked with essentials, families are digging out their sewing machines to make cloth masks for various businesses and organizations, and healthcare workers have heroically answered the call to treat those who have been infected, putting themselves and their families at risk.
One of those healthcare workers who has risen to the challenge is Angelo State alum Cole Strain.
Currently a RN/CCRN charge nurse in the progressive care unit at Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock, Strain was drawn to the even worse situation in New York City.
“Basically, I was scrolling through Facebook and I just kept seeing all these different posts from nurses that I knew who were up [in New York],” Strain said. “Just talking about how things were, how overwhelmed and tired everyone is from how hard they’ve been working. It just hit home. I just started thinking, ‘What if that was me in Lubbock? How would I be feeling?’”
Fate intervened, and Strain came across Krucial Staffing, a medical group that put out an announcement that they were looking for 550 nurses to help hospitals in New York.
“I prayed about it for about a week,” Strain said, “and then when the opportunity came up, I knew that was it. Like, okay here is your opportunity – either take it or leave it.”
Strain applied on a Saturday afternoon, and by Monday afternoon was on a plane ready to fulfill a seven-day-a-week, 21-day contract at one of the many NYC hospitals packed with COVID-19 patients.
“It’s so overwhelmingly overrun with COVID up here,” he explained. “Almost every patient, doesn’t matter which area you’re in, is COVID positive.”
“There’s just no comparison to the amount of devastation that is up here compared to down there,” Strain continued. “It just hit up here in New York so quickly, and it took over so quickly, they just never really had time to respond or develop a plan like we have in Texas.”
“Even though I’m up here fighting on the front lines in New York, all the healthcare providers across the nation are still doing the same thing for their communities. It doesn’t matter where you are, the fight is still happening…this was just something that I felt like I needed to do to make that difference.”
Strain has spent his first few days in an intensive care unit, where every patient has the virus. And his experience thus far has prompted him to give some advice.
“Don’t take this lightly, because this virus is very real and can be very dangerous” Strain said. “Listen to what everyone is telling you to do – stay home, wash your hands continuously, keep your hands off your face.”
“Because this is becoming a more wide-spread nationwide issue,” he continued, “people need to focus on taking care of their families and their communities. If you want to help, talk to your local hospitals to see if they need some fabric masks. Or see if they just need some meals delivered to help the healthcare professionals out. Just little things like that can make a big difference.”
A B.S.N. graduate of Angelo State’s nursing program, Strain has felt confident since he left ASU and became a healthcare professional.
“I feel ASU completely prepared me for being a nurse out in the real world,” he said. “ASU’s program has always been more clinically-based, meaning that you’re out in the hospitals doing a little more hands-on work. Just having that hands-on experience and developing your own way of doing things as a nurse while still being a student really helps you be ready for being on your own.”
And though Strain personally felt compelled to assist a community outside his own, that doesn’t mean other healthcare workers aren’t working extremely hard to answer the call for their patients closer to home.
“Even though I’m up here fighting on the front lines in New York, all the healthcare providers across the nation are still doing the same thing for their communities,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you are, the fight is still happening. Every healthcare professional and first responder is working both day and night to fight this terror that we’re all dealing with.”
“I don’t want anyone to think that I’m trying to take all this glory and recognition for coming. I still appreciate what they’re doing back at home. This was just something that I felt like I needed to do to make that difference.”