A Respiratory Therapist Traveled from Nevada to Help Save Lives at “Ground Zero” of the Epidemic

Kate Behring reports about a respiratory therapist Adrienne Androwski who left her home in Las Vegas to help with COVID-19 patients in New York City from April to the end of July in what was then the world’s epicenter of the pandemic.

Androwski holds up a sign saying #COVID-SHUFFLE as she took on a temporary position to help with COVID-19 patients earlier this year at the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Going East to Help Save Lives

When COVID-19 started ravaging New York City in the spring, Adrienne Androwski, a respiratory therapist for the past 14 years decided to go east to help save lives.

Traveling in the middle of a pandemic is something most people were and still are terrified to do, however Androwski explains the joy it brought her.

“I was excited to go. I wanted to help where the need was the greatest and [New York City] is my husband’s home, so it was a way for me to help him. This was my “Ground Zero”, compared to the real ground zero of 9/11, where my husband worked as a NYPD officer,” she said.

Adrienne Androwski posed with NYPD officers in Times Square during her temporary COVID-19 related job.

The Value of Respiratory Therapists

Going from the Summerlin Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas to the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Hospital was very intense, she remembers. The hospital was bigger, the number of patients quickly increased, and with that came bigger responsibilities.

“We were a much larger hospital with different procedures and units than I experienced in Las Vegas. The number of cases was much larger, [there were more] than 200 COVID ICU patients, all on ventilators.”

Many people did not know about the essential work respiratory therapists perform until they became so important in saving patients during the pandemic.

Many people believe respiratory therapists to be someone who only gives breathing treatments. However, that is not the case.

“We collaborate with providers to deliver the most appropriate and effective treatment to the patient,” Androwski said. “We understand pulmonary dynamics, we interpret lab tests that determine why there is a respiratory insufficiency and deliver treatment to correct or improve the condition. It is a very rewarding career and the exposure has enabled us to receive recognition and more appropriate pay for our profession.”

Androwski was available to find an Airbnb ten blocks from the hospital in central Manhattan.

Seeing New York in a New Light

Packing up your entire life to move somewhere for three months is not an easy thing to do. With moving somewhere new comes new lodging and new surroundings.

Androwski was in New York from April 13 to July 26. Within that time she experienced things many can’t say they have or ever will. “I was able to see NYC in a way that it has never been seen before. Times Square, Park Avenue, Central Park, Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and so many more landmarks were abandoned. It was very post-apocalyptic in the way it felt. There were no people, other than the homeless, the NYPD and NYFD, and the healthcare workers coming and going to work,” Androwski remembers.

Androwski explains how being in a hospital during a pandemic is “terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.” Androwski says she witnessed many sad, unbearable things while working as a respiratory therapist.

“I walked into a hospital overrun with sick patients with a virus we didn’t know anything about,” she said. “We were all doing our best but sometimes that wasn’t good enough. I have to live with that everyday. We learned more about the virus, the way it attacked the body and new ways to treat it, everyday. There were many who answered the call who were unqualified to help and often added to the workload and stress of the situation. We had a tractor trailer for a morgue and no patients were allowed visitors. After my first few weeks, we were allowing family members in only in the patients’ final moments, to say good-bye. The family would have to wear appropriate PPE and were instructed not to touch the patient. It was devastating to witness families having to say good-bye without a final kiss or touch. Unfortunately, some families couldn’t resist and would be escorted out by security. This was incredibly difficult to witness… so many tears during this entire process.”

Androwski hopes to continue traveling around the U.S. to help in other COVID-affected areas in hopes to learn more. She also spent time at a Florida hospital.

Thanking Healthcare Workers Around You

Although Androwski experienced many sad, unforgettable things she also experienced some of the most inspiring.

As New York City was shut down, it did not stop the people from cheering on all of the healthcare workers.

“Every night at 7:00 pm, the people would open their windows and cheer for us,” she said. “Shouts could be heard all over the city, banging pots and pans, whistles blowing, ‘woohoos, yays, we love yous and THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO’, were all being shouted to me as I walked to work. Needless to say it was overwhelming and so emotional. We had food delivered to us, people came to sing to us as we entered the hospital. The most memorable sight was on my second day of work. As I approached the hospital I heard the familiar sound of the bagpipes. When I rounded the corner to the entrance, there he was, a single man, playing AMAZING GRACE on the bagpipes. I was overcome with emotion and could not hold back the tears. I stood there and absorbed his gift to us and let the tears run down my face. I can still hear him and feel the sense of pride and sadness at the same time. Pride for being able to finally serve my country and community, and sadness for the reason I was called to serve,” Adrienne wrote in an email.

Androwski appreciated all the kind words for emergency health care workers.

Superhero or Respiratory Therapist? But really what’s the difference?

There are so many healthcare workers throughout the world that have put their lives at risk in order to do their job. Adrienne Androwski is not only a respiratory therapist but a hero at the end of the day. As we continue to fight this virus as a community take a moment and thank a healthcare worker around you.

Reporting by Kate Behring for the Reynolds Sandbox

The Reynolds Sandbox showcases innovative and engaging storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab.

Recommended from Medium

Amazing new Drug shows Promise to Improve Cognitive Functioning

Women In Wellness: Manisha Mittal On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s…

Mewing and Some Other tips to Develop Better Facial Features

OBESITY is a cause of cancer

What to expect after Fetal Echocardiogram?

Please Consider Submitting Your Healthcare Story to “I Am Cheese.”

Science catches up with Ayurveda

In Crisis, The Best Strategy Is To Be Calm

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Reynolds Sandbox

Reynolds Sandbox

Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.

More from Medium

Reno/Tahoe’s Dry Winters Has Outdoor Enthusiasts Adjusting Their Winter Recreation (Audio Story)

From Drums to Harp Strings, People of Different Faiths Gathered in Reno to Pray for Peace in…

Indigenous Peoples Wear Traditional Scarves to Showcase Long Connection and Support for Ukrainians

Comparing Results of Private and Public Schools After My Own Experiences