MURRAY, Utah — It was an unexpected reunion 2,000 miles away for critical care nurses on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March and April, the shifts were long, yet, there never seemed to be enough time to go around in New York’s COVID ICUs.
“That was really hard,” said Long Island Jewish Medical Center nurse Annice Sterling.
During the state’s surge of COVID-19 infections, Sterling put her all into treating patients — too many who wouldn’t survive.
“We’d go home and we’d have break [downs]. We’d be in the break room crying,” said Sterling.
On her most difficult day, Intermountain Health nurse Jake Ferrin shared the treatment a dying patient.
“He was there. He said, ‘I’m going to come in... I’m going to help you with everything.’ That’s exactly what he did,” said Sterling.
Ferrin was among 100 volunteers from Utah who rushed to New York to help the overwhelmed hospitals.
“It was really, really difficult and there is no way to describe the sheer volume of people who were there,” said Ferrin.
After two weeks, Ferrin flew back home.
Cases slowed in New York.
Sterling wanted to repay the kindness she experienced as Utah hospitals filled with COVID-19 patients.
“We are nowhere near what New York went through, but for us, relative to what we normally handle, it’s a lot,” said Ferrin.
On her first day helping at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, familiar eyes peeked out behind a mask.
“I saw Jake and I was like, ‘Were you in New York? Were you at LIJ? Were you in CCU?’”
“‘Oh Annice? Hey! We totally worked together,'” Ferrin said of their reunion.
During a handful of shifts, they forged a bond during a season of isolation and often death.
“You kind of kneel into talking to people about their personal experiences, their personal lives, not necessarily as a distractor but just to help you cope with everything that is going on,” said Sterling.
Sterling has enjoyed her time in Utah and says she’s seriously considering moving to the Beehive State.