To all of the doctors, nurses, first responders, essential workers and unseen heroes…
Arlie Stevens volunteered to leave her family in Atlanta to care for critical COVID-19 patients in New York City.
“I don’t consider myself a hero at all,” Arlie says. “So many other people have to face this virus every day.” Yet there she was at 7 p.m. on April 18, 2020, at the Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx, reporting to a 12-hour night shift, the first of 21 straight days (well, with one day off) and dressed in four layers of protective gear.
The majority of her patients were intubated and unresponsive. Many would not leave the hospital alive. Most of them were elderly, though some were as young as 30.
Arlie, 38, had never been to New York City before. Having grown up in rural Swainsboro, Ga., she married a military man and moved around the country as he was reassigned. Eventually, they returned to the Atlanta area, where she worked as an oncology nurse. She had been planning to fly to Boston for her graduation from a master’s program for her nurse-practitioner degree in April 2020, but the ceremony was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Having followed the deteriorating situation in New York City on the news, she took the graduation cancellation as a sign.
“I just got a feeling that I had to go to New York to help.”
Four days after contacting Crucial Staffing she was moving into a single room at the Marriot Marquee on Times Square. Every evening, a bus came to pick her up, along with other temporary nurses who had traveled from all over the country to assist with the COVID-19 response. The bus rolled through eerily empty streets. “What really got me were the big shop windows with nothing on display,” she says. “It was like a ghost town.”
She suited up in regular scrubs covered by an additional set of paper scrubs, then a full-length waterproof gown, itself shielded by a plastic gown. Add gloves, shoe covers, a hair net and cap, an N95 mask with a surgical mask on top, and a plastic face shield. It was stifling. “The first three days were extremely hard, with the pain from the tight mask on my face. It was unbearably tight, with pressure on the bridge of my nose, cheekbones, chin, and the pull of the elastic on my ears. It rubbed my nose raw, but band-aids helped.” She eventually got used to it.
“What made me the saddest, what made me cry, was that these patients were so sick and so alone. To me, dying alone is a terrible thing. Since the ventilated patients don’t get touched very often, I would try to talk to them and touch them, even though not with my bare hands, and even though they weren’t overtly conscious. I wanted them to know that someone was there with them.”
One young man was awake. He couldn’t speak, having had a tracheotomy instead of receiving the more common tube down the throat. She thought, here is this poor man, surrounded by caregivers covered in space suits. She tried to show that she cared, even though the only thing he could see were her eyes through the clear plastic. “I hoped he could see my caring in my eyes, and he could tell that I was not afraid to touch him. I can only imagine what it was like to wake up sedated, with a trach, and everyone around protected from head to toe.”
Arlie’s job was to administer antibiotics to patients through nasogastric tubes. “We were there to assist the regular ICU nurses, who monitored blood pressure and administered drips for sedation and to control blood pressure for patients on ventilators.” She wasn’t scared of catching the virus—she was too busy to consider it. “As a nurse, you learn not to dwell on things too much, and besides, I was constantly moving to do the next thing, just to keep up.”
“But I was never actually scared I would get COVID-19. I was meant to be there, and I had my faith, and I am just an optimistic person. I had proper PPE, had prepared myself, and am generally a very healthy person. Basically, I just wouldn’t let it into my mind that I would be sick.”
Arlie emphasizes that “the regular staff at the New York City hospitals, and those all around the country on the front lines, are the real heroes. I don’t know if I could do it. They were so kind and grateful for our help. They were amazing—I can’t imagine working in those conditions all the time.”
Heroes supporting heroes
“GHC3 is a prominent force in the battle against COVID-19. After discussions with its Executive Director, Ken Berta, I believe in GHC3’s mission of uniting the world’s top minds in business, government and technology in order to work to eradicate this deadly virus. I believe in organizations that are forging ahead in the face of unprecedented circumstances and working to make the world a better, safer and healthier place. I am glad to lend my voice to an organization such as GHC3.”
“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our country and the entire world and GHC3 is on the front lines of that battle. I am pleased to be able to join their effort to lessen the impact of this virus while supporting all the workers across our country who come face-to-face the Coronavirus daily. I believe the best and quickest way to win this battle is for everyone to work together as one, and GHC3 is bringing together the best and the brightest from all walks of life to fight this deadly virus.”
“I have been passionate about finding a way to give back during this unprecedented time and upon learning about the mission of GHC3, I knew it was an organization I wanted to work hand-in-hand with to raise awareness during this crisis. The health, safety and well-being of individuals across, not just the United States, but the world, is at the forefront of my concerns. The effort GHC3 is putting forth in finding people and organizations to collaborate in an effort to find a way to assist public health officials in the COVID-19 pandemic response is outstanding. I look forward to partnering with GHC3 and serving their team in any way I can.”
“As the COVID-19 situation worsened in our country I knew I wanted to help, but with so much immediate need I had no idea where to start. When I heard about GHC3 and its mission, I knew that by supporting them my contribution would immediately assist my hometown of Virginia Beach, VA by providing PPE to frontline healthcare providers, and meals to food-insecure individuals. I’m excited to partner with GHC3 to continue to help however I can until we are on the other side of this.”
Connecting those who can help with those who need it most.
Global Entertainer, Comedian, and Businessman
The Dick Corbett Head Football Coach, University of Notre Dame
GHC3 is a division of the Center for Global Health Innovation (CGHI). The Center for Global Health Innovation is an Atlanta based 501(c)3 organization that was launched in 2019 to bring together diverse Global Health, Health Technology and Life Sciences entities to collaborate, innovate and activate solutions to enhance human health outcomes around the world. At its core, CGHI will orchestrate programs that promote cross discipline cooperation to strengthen capabilities, accelerate problem solving and respond to global health crises. The Center will continue to support its subsidiary organizations, Georgia Bio and Georgia Global Health Alliance and is standing up a permanent Global Health Crisis Coordination Center to bringing to bear the best private sector and public sector capabilities and experience in times of need.