ON THE FRONTLINES: Springfield nurse warns of dire circumstances in NYC

Published: Apr. 18, 2020 at 10:03 PM CDT
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A nurse from Springfield is fighting on the frontlines, caring for coronavirus patients in New York City. Now, she's speaking out about the reality that first responders are facing there, and the reality she hopes the Ozarks can avoid.

"I've literally cried more in the last week than I have probably the last year or more," said Hillary Talburt.

"Utter chaos," is how Talburt, a Springfield native, described her first week working in a New York City emergency room.

"It's been overwhelming. It's been emotionally and physically exhausting," she said.

The travel nurse requested to go to one of the hardest hit areas of the US to help coronavirus patients, leaving behind her husband and five children to care of other people's loved ones.

She said 90% of her patients are being treated for COVID-19.

"My job is to try to save lives and send people home but you know when somebody rolls in the door, almost automatically, that person's not going to make it," Talburt said. "There's nothing I can do about it."

She said that reality leaves her feeling incompetent, even though she knows this crisis is out of her control.

"There's a lot of nurses and providers that are going to need a lot of counseling after this. Between the feeling of helplessness and worrying about your own health, it's just a very, very scary thing," she said.

Talburt, along with the other ER staff on Coney Island, are wearing protective gear from head to toe.

"We're doing our best to keep us safe because 10-20% of the positives are healthcare workers and if they start to get sick, who's going to take care of everybody," she said.

New York City paramedic Anthony Almojera told NBC News, his union has been hit hard already.

"Two members who are intubated, seven or eight members in the ICU," Almojera said.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state might be nearing the peak or the plateau of the crisis there, after seeing more than 122,000 cases of the coronavirus, more than 4,000 deaths.

Talburt said she worries if people in her hometown don't take this seriously, mass casualties could even happen here.

"Larger city, we're seeing things on a larger scale. If people don't stay home, in Springfield alone, and they get sick at the percentage rate that they are sick here, people are going to be dying in the streets," Talburt said.

It's a chaotic scene she does not want to see in Springfield after witnessing an overwhelming reality thousands of miles away.

"People need to stay home. If people start staying home, this peak drops and I might get to come home and see my family earlier," Talburt said."This virus does not screw around. It does not differentiate between people. It will kill you."

Talburt's work in New York City is set to last eleven weeks. She said she will self-isolate for two more weeks after that to protect her family from possible exposure.