NEW YORK CITY––Lincolnton native Benjamin Williamson is among those fighting the virus at its Manhattan epicenter.
A registered ICU nurse for Atrium Health, Williamson is a graduate of Lincolnton High School (class of ’96), N.C. State University and the Mercy School of Nursing in Charlotte. He is now working at the famed New York City hospital, Mount Sinai Beth Israel, batting on the frontlines. He talked about everything going on there Thursday.
Among those he thanked for their heroic courage and sacrifices in the face of this ongoing crisis, making it possible for him to be in New York, were his wife, Tonya, and their daughter, Merrick.
“It’s been 20 days since I left my house and family to care for COVID-19 (corona virus disease, 2019) patients in Colorado and now New York City,” he said. “I miss them and normal life tremendously.
“Typically,” Williamson continued, “I am a stoical person. But lately, I cry almost my entire walk to work for two reasons: the enormity of the task in front of me and the support I have received from all of you. Thanks!”
But things are improving, as Williamson added.
“This week,” he said, “clinically has been some better. I think the curve is flattening! There have been fewer admissions and deaths. The hard part now is thinking about the patients that have been on vents for weeks and if they are candidates for a tracheostomy and potentially a PEG (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy; placing a tube for nutrients into the abdominal wall).
“Finally,” he added, “we have quit giving hydroxychloroquine, and in my opinion, there seems to be less heart dysthymia (depression affecting the heart) on the unit. There is still no cure or definitive treatment plan for the patients, which is hard. As an ICU nurse, I like to have a plan and direction. Currently, it’s just supportive care. The hospital staff continues to work tirelessly. I am so impressed by their dedication and professionalism. Remember, most of the nurses are travelers and have never worked together before, much less in a crisis. Some are not even ICU, so I try and teach and encourage them as I give reports. It’s hard, because we are losing some of our own MD’s and RN’s. As I learned in nursing school and now graduate school (at Duke University), the people most affected by this are the poor and vulnerable. The sad thing is, this is always who takes the worst of things. My wish is that after this is over, we figure out as a country how to care for these people. My hero would be the person that solves the health care problem in America.”
Still, there is reason for optimism, as Williamson stressed.
“Finally,” he said, “let me reiterate: there is hope! I believe each day we are learning new things about this disease. However, there is no cure or treatment, and the reason things are better is because you are staying at home.”
Williamson also thanked everyone praying for him.
“I’m just up here,” he said, “trying to take care of sick people.”