VERMILLION, S.D. – Brandon Stanton ’19, a University of South Dakota nursing graduate, is on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic as an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. Like many around the nation, Stanton wondered how he could help in this great time of need, and for him that meant going to a place where help was needed the most.
In his first weeks at NYP-Brooklyn, Stanton found understaffed units, shortages of personal protective equipment and suffering patients.
“I have seen devastation firsthand,” said Stanton. “People in New York are truly scared. I don’t want my family to ever feel the fear that is in the city.”
New York City has been at the center of the COVID-19 outbreak, and it has staggering numbers of deaths and hospitalizations due to the virus. One of the most surprising things Stanton said he has seen so far is just how quickly the virus overwhelmed the hospital.
“Choosing to go to Brooklyn for me meant they had one more pair of hands to help,” Stanton said.
During Stanton’s first week at NYP-Brooklyn, he was one of only two ICU nurses in a psychiatric unit turned care unit. He was then moved to a pediatric intensive care unit that admits adults who are critically ill with the disease.
Stanton’s patients are intubated, ventilated and on critical care drips, and one of his responsibilities includes turning the patients to prevent pressure ulcers. Stanton said it is nearly impossible with the multiple machines.
“The problem is that most cannot tolerate simple repositioning, and their vital signs will quickly drop,” Stanton said. “I work so hard for my patients, and sometimes we only get negative news.”
To protect himself and his patients, Stanton wears head-to-toe personal protective equipment.
“I wear an N-95 mask covered by a simple surgical mask, a face shield, a hair cover and a gown,” said Stanton. “I have learned to put a blister bandage on my nose to prevent it from getting rubbed raw. My ears are blistered by now, but there’s not much we can do about that.”
Now in his fourth week, Stanton said makeshift ICUs are starting to close and are reverting to their regular units. Stanton says it’s noticeably calmer, yet, he has hesitations.
“New York is planning to reopen in phases starting May 18. While it is calming down now, I have a fear that COVID-19 cases will increase again if people aren’t careful,” Stanton said. “There have been cases of people recovering, then the virus reactivates, and they get sick again. There are also rumors of a second strain going around too. The next month will be very telling about the future of COVID-19.”
Stanton, who accepted a contract to work eight weeks with four 12-hour shifts, will be in New York until June 13. He lives in a small, Brooklyn apartment, and he says navigating the subway system has been interesting but fun. Though this is the Onawa, Iowa, native’s first time in New York City, on his days off, he is often too exhausted to sightsee.
Stanton’s days are long, and he has seen the worst this virus can do, but he remains grateful to those who are doing their part to help those in need.
“I have so much respect and gratitude for all the front-line workers, and not just the health care workers,” Stanton said. “I thank anyone who is working to keep this country on its feet from the bottom of my heart.”