As an ER nurse at Capital Health in Trenton for the last two-and-a-half years, Kaley Wills ’13 is no stranger to uncertainty. “You just never know what is coming through that door,” she says. She is used to a steady stream of strokes, psychiatric emergencies and life-threatening injuries, but the current public health crisis facing New Jersey, and the world, is unlike anything she has ever seen.
“The number of patients we have coming in with symptoms, the amount of PPE we have, it changes every day. There is a greater need for flexibility than ever before.” While her time in the ER has prepared her well for the unpredictability of the situation, the severity has not been lost on her. “I remember when we first intubated a COVID patient. I was terrified, even though we intubate all of the time. We’ve all seen it on the news, but then you realize that this is going to hit us hard.”
Shaken from her experience, she returned the next day to help treat more patients. “I told myself, ‘this is very different from yesterday and I’m ready.’” This compassionate nurse finds that both the unknown and the emotional toll are the most difficult parts of treating COVID patients. “It’s scary when they are critical and you don’t know how long they’re going to be intubated, but it’s also really sad for people. We have a strict ‘no visitors’ rule and it’s hard because people really want their families at this time.”
While she understands social distancing may be difficult, she cautions those who are not taking it seriously. “This is real and I see these people every day, so make sure as you go out in public, do it minimally. Make sure you are acting as if you are already infected and don’t want to spread it. But, the best thing you can do is stay home. Stop seeing your grandparents. They will not survive this. And, you never know who is immunocompromised.”
Despite the trying times, Ms. Wills’ spirits have been buoyed by the outpouring of support she has received from friends, family, and fellow Hun alumni.
“Lisa Yacomelli posted about me on social media, then girls I hadn’t talked to in six years, Katie Kubala ’14, Jordan Fusco ’13, Sam Troilo ’14, Juliet Kapanjie ’14, Heather English ’14, Sara Weck ’13, and Liz Mydlowski ’14 all Venmo’d me to buy lunch for the ER staff. Joey Crivelli ’13 and Devan Birch ’13 bought me a subscription to Headspace (meditation app) for the year and just the other day, a former teacher’s mother-in-law dropped off a box of handsewn masks. The support has been overwhelming.”
“If anything positive can come out of this, it is how a community can really come together.”