POST BULLETIN (Minnesota)
ST. PAUL — A trio of local nurses left town Saturday, April 11, to do battle with the coronavirus for eight weeks in New York, the nation’s hardest hit state.
“I was disturbed by the things I was reading,” said Jordan Kaaze, 29, of Woodbury. She and her friends Cara Favorite, 37, of Farmington, and Shereen Parsakalleh, 30, of St. Paul, worked together in the intensive care unit at Regions Hospital.
They had been watching social media posts and nurse forums from New York City, where more than 7,000 people have died from COVID-19.
“They (nurses) would end the forum by saying, if you’re able bodied and have experience, please come help us. We are not OK,” Kaaze said.
All three began thinking about heading to New York, but they were unsure about going alone. One expressed her feelings to the others only to find out they were all on the same page.
“We’re like work besties, so this is the best-case scenario,” Parsakalleh said. “This is probably going to be some of the hardest weeks of my career. But knowing that I have my besties there makes it so much better.”
The women applied to Aya Healthcare, a travel nursing agency, to see if the need was as great as they’d been hearing.
“We applied that morning and had job offers that night,” Kaaze said. The three could work together in the same hospital as well.
Aya has filled more than 4,000 crisis jobs related to COVID-19.
“The demand of crisis jobs in New York is unprecedented,” said Sophia Morris, vice president of Account Management at Aya. “We’ve seen our jobs for New York more than quadruple in the past month.”
The offers made things real. Now they had to decide if they really wanted to put their lives on hold and leave their loved ones for two months.
All three are adventurous by nature. Favorite dabbles in Strongman competitions, Kaaze is a professional MMA fighter, and Parsakalleh loves to travel. Putting their lives on hold to do something challenging and helpful was a no-brainer, Parsakalleh said.
Their families, with the exception of a few nervous parents, gave them their blessing. Favorite is the only one with a child — a 15-year-old son.
There was one thing that none of them wanted to do.
“We couldn’t take leaves of absences. We had to resign to do this,” Favorite said.
That was a big step, the first of several risks they’d be taking if they continued.
“The hard part is sidelining our boss with our resignations,” said Kaaze, who has worked at Regions for five years. “But she was completely supportive.”
They said, compared to New York City, the Twin Cities are in good shape, with ICU floors having two nurses to one patient and several nurses furloughed because non-emergency surgeries have been canceled. Nurses in the forums they watched talked about taking care of five patients at a time by themselves.
The women rented an apartment near Kimmel Pavilion, a hospital in the NYU Langone Health System, and will be working five 12-hour shifts a week in an ICU float pool.
Before leaving, they put out requests on social media for personal protective equipment to take with them and were encouraged by the response.
“That’s been the part that has really been blowing me away,” Kaaze said. “I started getting messages from people I’d never met before. Complete strangers started dropping PPE off on my doorstep.”
All three said they were a little nervous about all the unknowns, but otherwise excited to be able to help.
“I want my kids and grandkids to know I was brave enough to go to the worst spot and make a difference,” Kaaze said.