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Winston-Salem State nursing school graduate treating patients at New York hospital

"The doctors and nurses are all real upbeat, moral is high and everyone is in good spirits, but there is still a lot of people dying."

NEW YORK — Kayla Cummins grew up in the small town of Pinnacle, North Carolina, population 855. The area is rich in history and dates to the 1700s. Life in that part of Stokes County is relatively quiet and calm.

These days Cummins life is anything but calm. The Winston-Salem State nursing school graduate is working at a hospital in New York. “Every single person I’ve taken care of myself either has the virus or I’ve swabbed them for the virus and sent it to the lab,” said Cummins.

A contract nurse Cummins volunteered to go to New York to assist other doctors and nurses treating patients with COVID-19. “Everyone is super upbeat and super positive and encouraging and they’re thankful that we are coming in to help,” said Cummins.

Most of her days are spent in the emergency room. Cummins will often work 13-hour days at the hospital. “To see people literally coding every day, every couple hours or having to intubate them,” said Cummins.

New York has become the epicenter for COVID-19 cases in the U.S. with more than 250,000 people infected and more than 15,000 deaths. Cummins says it seems the amount of people being admitted is slowing a bit, but the hospital is still crowded with patients, many are very sick. “We did have to Facetime this man’s family so they could possibly say goodbye before we intubated him,” said Cummins.

With so many patients in need of care and specifically ventilators, Cummins says respiratory therapists are doing whatever they can to save people. “There are some BiPAP and CPAP machines I’ve never seen in my life that the respiratory therapists are bringing out and they’re figuring out how to make them work as ventilators,” said Cummins.

While there are plenty of bad times and sad endings Cummins says the hospital and staff are doing all they can to keep doctors and nurses spirits up. The hospital has started playing the Beatles song, Here Comes the Sun, when a patient comes off a ventilator. “I literally look forward to that every day,” said Cummins.

Cummins says she is exhausted by the end of most shifts. In a video she sent to WFMY News 2 on one of her days at the hospital she stepped outside to take her mask off for the first time and her face was saturated with sweat from wearing a mask and goggles.

Cummins says she is surprised to see the doctors and nurses so upbeat despite everything that is going on. She said the hospital was seeing a lot more patients before she arrived and that may be the reason.

Cummins said there are still not enough rooms for every patient right away and that some will sit in the hallways for several hours until a room or spot opens. While the hours are long and having to see sick patients constantly does take a toll, Cummins said she is proud to help.


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RELATED: Facts Not Fear | What you need to know about the COVID-19 outbreak


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