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Answering the call: Brewton RN serves in NYC amid pandemic

Registered Nurse Nicoale Bailey answered the call to serve in New York City amid the pandemic.
Originally from Brewton, Bailey graduated from T.R. Miller High School in 2001 and received her nursing degree from Coastal Alabama Community College, at the time Jefferson Davis Community College.
After the coronavirus (COVID-19) became a growing concern throughout the United States, especially in New York City, Bailey decided she needed to help.
In her initial post on Facebook, Bailey described the moment she decided to go. She wrote, “When I first decided to come here my mother thought I was crazy and didn’t believe me at first.”
Upon arrival at the airport in New York, reality finally hit, and it hit hard. “When I arrived at New York airport my anxiety really kicked into overdrive. I prayed like never before, asking God to keep me calm and protected,” she stated.
Currently, Bailey is assigned to the night shift at a NYC Health Hospital in Brooklyn. “The agency I’m with sent thousands of nurses here. We had some nurses to quit the first day,” said Bailey. Shocked by the reality of COVID-19 or perhaps riddled with fear, many nurses left. But despite her terrible first night on the job, Bailey decided to stay.
“My first night here was like living a nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from,” said Bailey. Assigned to a COVID-19 patient, Bailey received shocking news within the first few minutes on the job.
“My first COVID-19 patient died. Less than an hour from being in her room, I was notified that she wasn’t responding. We tried everything to save her. She died. It happened so quickly, I left that morning crying my heart out not knowing if I could handle this,” explained Bailey.
Staying the course, Bailey mustered up the strength to stay. “I knew people were dying just from watching the news, but I didn’t think it was really this bad. It was totally different from what I expected,” shared Bailey.
Describing her day-to-day routine, Bailey said that every day is a surprise. “Each day is different. Some days are better or worse than the previous. I am working night shift. Each day is survival mode. I never know what I’m coming into. Each night I hear so many codes. Code 88—patient needs airway protection or Code 99—no heart beat, not breathing,” she said.
On March 23, NYC was deemed the epicenter of the virus for the United States. At the time it accounted for 5% of the cases in the world. As Bailey served in NYC, she saw these numbers rise, first-hand.
“The morgue is full. I took care of a nurse that contracted the virus. I never experienced anything like this. True enough, I’m use to emergencies but this is just not the normal I’m use to,” she said.
The hardest thing for Bailey was accepting the fact that in most cases the only thing she could do for a patient was provide emotional support.
She shared, “To see patients on oxygen and still struggling to breathe was heartbreaking. There were not enough ventilators at one time. I would hold my patients’ hand and just talk with them and limit my time in the room due to more risk of exposure. In many cases, that was all I could do, just be available for emotional support.”
With the flattening of the curve, NYC has seen better days these past few weeks. At the time of press, 165,000 individuals have contracted the virus and 12,774 deaths reported within the city. On April 29, the number decreased to 4,585 reported cases, which state officials and COVID-19 task force personnel considered a great decline.
For Bailey, she has seen the decline happen right before her eyes. It has been a long road, but she is pleased to report some good news. “On the good side, it has gotten better here. Less patients are coming to the hospital. Death rates decreased. Things are looking up now. I’m truly grateful and blessed to be here to serve,” she said.
From working long hours to facing difficult situations on the job, Bailey said that one of the most difficult parts of her experience is being away from home.
“I miss my family, the warm weather, and wearing my flip flops. I’m truly a country girl and I love Alabama. It’s been cold up here. When I left Brewton, it was 85 degrees, and it was bone chilly cold when I arrived to New York,” she said.
Bailey plans to return at the end of May or early June. With no definite date in site, she remains committed to stay until she is no longer needed.
Bailey shared that the job has truly changed her from within. Coming home, she is bringing with her a new perspective she learned while working in NYC. She concluded, “This experience really changed my outlook on life. I have learned to embrace life itself.”