Emily Crumb, 27, is a nurse from Homer, a 2010 Homer Central High School alumna. Crumb graduated last year with a nursing degree from SUNY Morrisville and started work as a registered nurse last May.
Today, she’s in the midst of the most challenging assignment of her brief career — she’s at ground zero of the global coronavirus pandemic, working in the intensive care unit of New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
Crumb joined about 50 volunteers from Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca who took two buses Wednesday morning to New York City. The volunteers signed up to work at the hospital for a month.
Friday night, Crumb worked her first shift in a hospital she described as packed with patients and staffed by exhausted doctors and nurses — medical workers that Crumb and others like her will help relieve and support.
Thursday, Crumb said she was excited and nervous. When she and her colleagues first arrived, they checked into The Benjamin, a hotel near the hospital where they will stay for the next month, then they went for a walk. Manhattan was eerily deserted, and she and her co-workers took photos of the empty streets.
“It’s like a scary movie, really,” she said.
They got a crash course in what to expect during the month ahead. There were training sessions, and then they were taken on a tour of the hospital. She noticed they were building rooms for COVID-19 patients in the lobby. The entire hospital was divided into two sections: COVID and non-COVID.
“It was really unsettling,” she said.
Everywhere she looked, hospital staff were wearing masks, sometimes masks on top of masks. And all of them looked like they were in serious need of a decent night’s sleep.
“They just look tired,” Crumb said. “They look so tired.”
But despite their fatigue, hospital staff are going about their jobs as they normally would, she said.
“They’re going through something so crazy, and you can’t even tell,” she said.
Crumb is now working with the sickest of the COVID-19 patients. She wears personal protective equipment that her group brought with them from Cayuga Medical Center — N-95 respirators, gowns and gloves.
Despite all that protection, she knows she’s still at risk. But she’s young and healthy, and she wanted to do what she could to help where help is badly needed — especially in the intensive care unit, where she’s trained to work.
“I know there’s a need for a specific skill set,” she said. “I’m young and there’s so many people dying. If I can help get this number down and give the staff hope and make their day a little easier, I just feel like it’s what I have to do.”
Lisa Stack, Crumb’s mother, said she’s proud of her daughter, but she is worried, as well.
“I am terrified, but super proud,” Stack said. “I think it’s an amazing, selfless act that they are all doing.”
Stack, who is looking after Lyla, Crumb’s 3-year-old daughter, said her daughter has always been fearless and eager to help others.
“She’s always been a risk-taker, I’d say. She’s always been ready to step in, even if it was scary,” Stack said. “And she’s scared, she’s nervous. But she’s doing it, and that pretty much sums her up.”