Even while she was recuperating from leg surgery, Nurse of the Week Carolyn Storck couldn’t stay home during a pandemic. Storck, a former military Major in the Navy Nurse Corps and the wife of an active duty Marine, isn’t accustomed to being consigned to the sidelines, but her leg operation for Achilles tendonitis and a Haglund’s deformity was supposed to keep her out of action for at least four weeks.
However, the New Orleans NP found it impossible to keep off her feet when the Big Easy was struck by COVID-19. Accustomed to working as an Emergency Nurse at the city’s VA Medical Center and Ochsner Medical Center, Storck felt the tug of duty when “We hit that really bad two or three weeks in New Orleans, where we were having a lot of patients with COVID, a lot of hospitalizations, a lot of people on ventilators… Everything blew up.” Instead of spending the month off her feet, she returned to work just 12 days after her surgery.
Her return was made possible by a recent technological breakthrough, a special hands-free crutch known as an iWalk. With her lower leg supported by the iWalk, Storck navigated her way through the hospital during her 12-hour shifts. Of the high-tech crutch, which effectively took the place of her lower leg, Storck marveled, “Even a scooter would not have given me the level of mobility like this.”
Her use of their product prompted the president of iWalk to issue a statement describing Storck as a “hero,” but the praise left her somewhat abashed. “I think we’re all just doing our jobs,” she commented. “This is what we went into medicine to do. It’s nice to be acknowledged, but it’s also, you do what you got to do.”
Now able to walk unaided, Storck is wistfully looking forward to running as well: “My hope is that one day I can run again. I still see myself as a runner, even though I haven’t done it in three years. My specialist is going to eventually do the other [leg], and my hope is that it’s actually cured enough that I can get back to running again.”
For more on Carolyn Storck’s story, see the article in People Magazine.
Nurse of the Week Ben Busey is no stranger to crises. In addition to working as an Urgent Care Nurse Manager at the Roseburg VA Medical Center in Oregon, Busey is also a part of the VA’s Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System (DEMPS), which deployed him in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria struck. So, he was ready to serve when COVID-19 started to spread in beleaguered New Orleans.
The 34-year-old Busey spent two weeks at the VA in New Orleans at the height of the pandemic, and says, “The first day I walked in there, two people died within the first two hours of me arriving. They had just run out of body bags, the ICU.” In addition to coping with the strained hospital resources, like most frontline nurses he did all he could to maintain connections between isolated patients and their loved ones: “I would end up calling them in the middle of the night to give them updates on a small improvement on my patient, just because I knew that they couldn’t see their family member and they weren’t allowed to be on the unit with them, and they were probably just worrying all the time about how their family member was doing.”
Warned of the PPE shortage in advance, he packed N95 masks for his trip, and used his small supply sparingly, often wearing the same mask for as many as five shifts in a row. Upon his arrival, he quickly learned that it is unwise to make assumptions merely because your age and health place you in a fairly low-risk group. As Busey recalls, “The person who oriented me for a couple of hours that first day when I arrived, he had just come back from being ill with COVID and he was 31. The way he described it, he said every day he sat in his room and he wondered am I dying, because he felt so sick and short of breath…” Fortunately, Busey himself returned unscathed; his test results after his return to Oregon proved negative.
Busey worked night shifts, and provided strong, capable support during his two weeks in New Orleans. When he came back to the Roseburg VA Medical Center, the Center presented him with official recognition for his work during the crisis.
For more on Dan Busey’s experience in New Orleans, visit here.