'Call To Action:' Lane County Nurses Head To NYC To Battle COVID-19
Last week, Oregon sent ventilators to New York to help state hospitals fight COVID-19. Now, Oregon nurses are heading to New York. KLCC’s Tiffany Eckert spoke with Treva Risher Tuesday evening as the registered nurse from Sacred Heart Riverbend in Springfield prepared to depart.
“I am about to get on a plane to go to New York City to help the hospitals with COVID positive patients.”
Reporter: “How did it come to pass that you might decide to do this, that you might be asked to do this?”
“It’s funny cause time has felt like forever for the last month or so. But the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen a lot of video blogs and just been reading a ton of what medical professionals are experiencing there and just felt a call to action-- to go.”
“And I had briefly mentioned it to my wife, Melaney Wilson, she works at the VA. And we were both just kind of hemming and hawing about it," Risher said. "Because it’s a big commitment to go and take care of patients you know have this virus."
"So she is what’s called DEMS certified, it stands for Disaster Emergency Medical professional Services. So since she is certified in that, the VA called her up and said we’re gonna send you to New York. So she was the spuring thing of me going. Because I couldn’t see her going and me not being there with her and serving together.”
Reporter: “What was the process for you to offer yourself up?
“Ahhh. I had to talk to lots of recruiters. A lot of those companies wanted a 13 week contract and I just couldn’t take that time away cause we have a family here," said Risher. "We have a farm here. So I ended up getting a contract where I could do it for 4 weeks and so I ship [out] or I fly out tomorrow morning (Wednesday.)”
Reporter: “You say ‘ship out.’ Do you feel that way?
“You know, I’ve never served in the military and I have such a heart for veterans and those who serve currently," Risher said. "But this is my way of understanding what they feel like. You know, I’m going into battle. I’m going into a war of fighting this virus.”
Reporter: “What do you see yourself doing in New York? What have they told you in terms of the recruitment? What do you expect to be doing when your boots hit the ground?
“I’m gonna be working in ICU and probably also in their ER. What I’ve been told is ‘get ready to take care of a lot of sick patients,’" Risher related. "So our normal patient staff ratio here in our Intensive Care is normally 2:1. But over there, the nurse recruiter was talking to me about possibly doing 16 patients to one.
“It’s gonna be nothing like I’ve ever done here. It’s like a mass casualty type situation,” she said.
Reporter: “When you think about it and when you talk to your kids, what do you tell them? Why are you going and putting yourself in clear risk, in potential risk-- How do you distill that into words?”
(big sigh) “We have 6 kids together ranging anywhere from 28 to 14. The two youngest ones, they get it a little bit. But the older children, they get it. It’s real. you know, they know that I possibly might not be able to come home,” said Risher.
“You know, nurses hadn’t gotten the recognition that we’re getting now. But I’ve been exposed to so many different things, that just wasn’t to the degree that’s in our faces so much. So I try to explain, especially to the older ones, that this is what we’ve been training for," Risher said.
"And if we don’t take up this call to action to go take care of these patients, then our training is for naught. We’ve both been nurses for a very long time. I’ve personally been a nurse for 20 years. My wife has been a nurse for I believe for 25 or 26 years. We always say 'once a nurse, always a nurse.' So it’s ingrained in us.”
Reporter: “In terms of where you will land. Do you know where you’re going first?”
“Yep. So I’m gonna be in a hospital in Brooklyn, New York," said Risher.
Reporter: "Have you been to Brooklyn?"
“Never,” she said.
Reporter: “Do you see it kind of like, what’s happening there could happen anywhere but for the work that everyone does?”
“It can happen here. Right we don’t have the same population that New York does but it could be just as bad as it is there if we don’t do social isolation," Risher insists. "If we don’t remember simple handwashing. You know if we don’t have the PPE (personal protective equipment) to protect ourselves here, it could happen just as bad as it is there.”
Reporter: "Thank you for taking this time as you are packing and preparing to get on that jet plane. So have a safe trip and come back soon."
“Thank you. Will do.”
Registered Nurse Treva Richer and her wife, VA nurse Melaney Wilson, left for New York this week to help take care of patients with COVID-19. She spoke with KLCC’s Tiffany Eckert.