PICTURES | Life will never be the same again: Longford's frontline workers speak out

‘It is heartbreaking seeing patients so sick and not having their family members by their bedside’

Alan Walsh

Reporter:

Alan Walsh

Email:

alan.walsh@longfordleader.ie

New York is the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States and for Longford nurse Kathleen Devine, the last couple of months have been extremely tough.

She explained, “Our cardiac unit was converted to a Covid-19 unit in mid-March. We have seen an influx of very sick Covid-19 positive patients. We have had to adjust to ‘our new norm’ very quickly, and the staff has done so without hesitation.”

Edgeworthstown native Kathleen, who moved to New York in 1999, stressed that coronavirus has no boundaries and affects all ages, young and old, adding, “It is heartbreaking seeing patients so sick and not having their family members by their bedside to support them.”

Kathleen is undaunted by the challenges the fight against coronavirus present. “I am blessed to work with an amazing team who are putting their lives at risk for others every single day. All staff - doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, PAs, radiologists, lab technicians, environmental services, food and nutrition, are all working tirelessly to get through this together. The teamwork is inspiring.”

She says she is fortunate the health system she works for is so supportive in every way. “We have the supplies we need, and communication devices (Ipads, phones) to keep patients and their loved ones in contact via facetime.”

When Kathleen arrived in NY, she first worked as a nanny, and became a nurse in 2006, after graduating with an Associates Degree in Nursing. Shortly after, she started working as a RN on a cardiology unit in a Manhattan hospital.

She graduated with a Bachelors of Nursing in 2016 and subsequently became Assistant Nurse Manager of the same unit where she began her career. “I continue to work there today. I am very fortunate the hospital has given me many opportunities to grow my profession and advance my career.”

Kathleen and her colleagues have been overwhelmed by the community support they have received. “It has been instrumental in raising the spirits of our healthcare workers. We have received donations of all types - meals, snacks, cards, drawings and care packages for staff members.”

She described the support of the Longford diaspora in New York as ‘phenomenal’.

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“Fellow Longfordians, Siobhan & Dermot York, and Cormac McCormack, have supplied meals, sponsored by The Longford Association of New York to my staff. Also, Niall Henry and his pizzeria, Broadway Slice, have donated meals to us.

“Like so many other community members, these folks wanted to give back to their adopted city and help the frontline workers. These acts of generosity boost the staff, especially on a busy day on the unit when they have no time to get lunch. I am very grateful for their support at this trying time.”

There are almost one million confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the United States there have been over 50,000 deaths.

Kathleen pointed out, “I am extremely anxious that we will get hit with a second wave and that is why it is imperative for people to stay vigilant, adhere to social distancing, and wear masks even when the NY pause is lifted.”

Owing to travel restrictions, she fears that she will not get home to see her family this year.

“My parents, Jackie and Margaret, are cocooning at home in Edgeworthstown. Both are in good health, which I am so thankful for. My sister, Trisha, has been dropping off groceries and essential items at the front door. They are missing having the grandkids around, which I know has been very hard for them.

“I look forward to Facetiming them on my days off after a busy week at work. We were supposed to be all reunited this week. My older sister, Bernadette, and her family reside in North Carolina and my niece was due to make her communion on Saturday. I suppose the uncertainty is what worries me the most.”

Kathleen says she is fortunate that her younger sister, Rosie, and her husband, Shaun, live nearby, here in Queens. “She has had to close her beauty studio, Simply Devine, in Sunnyside, indefinitely. Life outside of work has also changed with the quarantine restrictions - virtual happy hour with the girls has become the new social norm!”

Kathleen is very appreciative of the support of her husband. “I am extremely lucky to have my husband, Benny, by my side; he has kept me sane through all of the uncertainty and craziness. His upbeat and positive demeanour has kept me motivated and he quickly reminds me that this is only temporary and will be over soon. Days off work have been very unproductive for me. We have done a lot of Netflix binge watching and have been cooking a lot more (well he has!).”

Kathleen’s hope is that this pandemic will be all over soon so that she will get to hug her parents again.

“My life as a nurse and a New Yorker will never be the same again, “ she said.

“We take things for granted. This has taught me that we need to express our love more, be kind to one another and live every day to the fullest.”

There’s a message in Kathleen’s concluding words for all of us during these unprecedented times.

Stay Safe.

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