The virus changed everything. And nothing. As the African nation…
‘It’s a nightmare. It’s a total nightmare.”
Managing more than 10 patients at a time without a nursing assistant or tech, Oklahoma nurse Kym Langford changes bedsheets, feeds patients and takes vital signs for 14 hours, seven days a week. She wears a mask meant for single use five days in a row.
Related: Troublesome times
Many of her patients die.
With nearly 200,000 confirmed cases, New York has become the heart of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. This did not stop Langford from seizing the opportunity to volunteer in the one place most would not dare travel — New York City.
Leaving behind her husband and three children, Langford flew to the Big Apple on March 29 to embark on a 21-day undertaking.
“I just felt like it was something that I needed to do,” said Langford, who worships with The Springs Church of Christ in Edmond, north of Oklahoma City. New York “had a really big shortage of nurses, I had the time, and my husband was going to be at home with our kiddos. I didn’t have any reason not to go.”
Ben Langford, director of the Center for Global Missions at Oklahoma Christian, believes his wife was made to serve in this global pandemic.
“She realizes this is not everyone’s gifting and calling, that not every nurse should go or should feel compelled to go,” Ben Langford said. “But I just think she is discerning and aware enough to think, ‘This is something I can do.
“I’m hesitant internally, but I know my wife well enough,” he added. “And I recognized that she’s right: This is what she is gifted to do.”
Ordinarily, Kym Langford works at Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City and serves as a lab coordinator with Oklahoma Christian University’s nursing program.
But for now, she only treats COVID-19 positive patients.
Over half of the current healthcare workers at the Harlem Hospital Center, where she is stationed, are volunteer nurses and doctors, Langford said. While hundreds of nurses initially planned to stay, she said, many left after experiencing the intense environment.
“I knew it was going to be hard, and to the people who are like, ‘I can’t handle this; I’m going home,’ I get that,” Langford said. “My thing is mind over matter. I’m talking myself down all night long. It’s very high stress.”
The floor she works on reopened for this crisis and was not ready to handle a pandemic.
“Day by day, we are asking for more supplies and more staff because it wasn’t meant to be an open floor,” Langford said. “They kind of threw it together to meet the demand of incoming patients.”
After serving as a missionary in Uganda for six years, Langford said she feels like she is on a mission trip now. The lack of medical supplies at her hospital puts patients at a high risk, she said.
“BiPAPs are a type of machine we can use to force air into a patient,” Kym said. “It is basically the step before using the ventilator, and we’re completely out of those. As some people die, we get to use them on the next person. It is awful.”
While reports suggest the curve is flattening in New York, Langford said her hospital is still in crisis mode.
“One night we had six submissions from the ER, and there were 30 more waiting for beds in the hospital,” she said. “People are waiting in the emergency department just to get beds to come up to the rooms. They’ll come in with so much respiratory distress, they’ll need to be put on a ventilator immediately.”
“They’re looking for nurses in Florida. They’re looking for nurses in New Orleans. After I come home … and regroup, I might go back out.”
As some of her patients have died in their 20s, Langford urges everyone to remain socially distant and stay at home.
“I think staying at home and social distancing is honestly the way that we’re going to flatten the curve and really the way that we’re going to get over this,” she said. “Don’t go to parks (or) have play dates. Really stay home, and kind of hunker in. Don’t get out if you don’t have to.”
Langford plans to self-quarantine for two weeks after she returns to Oklahoma.
“They’re looking for nurses in Florida. They’re looking for nurses in New Orleans,” she said. “After I come home … and regroup, I might go back out.”
This story originally appeared in The Talon, the student newspaper at Oklahoma Christian University. It’s reprinted with permission.
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