God’s Not Sending You that Far Not to Bring You Home
Sarah Hair is a nurse in the post anesthesia care unit (PACU) at Bailey Medical Center, an Ardent facility in Owasso, Oklahoma. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, her hospital, which specializes in surgical weight loss procedures, closed temporarily due to the Governor’s order suspending bariatric surgeries.
As Chief Executive Officer Keith Mason was meeting with the surgery staff to discuss next steps, he mentioned that there was a need for RNs at an Ardent sister hospital in New Jersey, an early COVID hotspot state.
Sarah said that as soon as Keith mentioned the opportunity, she raised her hand and said, “I’ll go!” She recalls it as an instant feeling. “When you hear your fellow nurses and doctors are struggling, you want to help.”
Sarah’s journey to New Jersey was a long one with many layovers and a couple of flight cancelations. She arrived on a Monday evening. “I knew I would be working nights so I stayed up all night to reset myself for a different schedule. I started on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.,” said Sarah. She met the house supervisor, got her badge and then headed to the ER to start her first shift.
Sarah was introduced to the ER charge nurse. “She looked up and saw me and said, ‘wow, you’re here! I’m so excited!’ From there, it was literally, GO!” The ER was at capacity, 25 treatment rooms, all with positive COVID-19 patients.
Without a pause, she was immediately assigned a group of patients. Sarah said, “In situations like this, you find your way. We all became family at that moment. I knew that we were all ‘boots on the ground,’ and it was important to just jump in.”
She describes the ER as working more like a combination of a Med/Surg floor, an ICU and an emergency department. “You had to become any kind of nurse that was needed for a particular patient. With this virus, things are constantly changing and you are learning on the fly. I learned how to hang chemo drugs, for example. I’ve never worn so many hats and worked in so many roles in a single shift.”
She also saw the saddest aspects of nursing. “It’s hard knowing a patient is not doing well and has no family present. We made calls to families in the middle of the night. It was always a judgment call on whether you should wake people up to let them know things might be changing,” Sarah explained.
As additional staff flew in over several evenings, the hospital was able to move more and more patients from the ER to inpatient floors. Sarah had been there 14 days when she was asked if she would be willing to extend her stay another week. She ended up staying 22 days.
“I broke the news to my husband and kids that I would not be coming home for Easter,” she said. “My 14-year-old, my baby, called me once when I was at work. It was a FaceTime call, and she burst into tears when she saw me. I went into immediate nurse mode, telling her it’s okay, I’m okay, you will be okay. I’ll be home in a week.”
Regarding any fear of becoming infected, Sarah recalls a moment she experienced before she left for New Jersey. “I was at my church and the pastor’s dad came out and hugged me. As he was leaving, he turned back and said, “God’s not sending you that far not to bring you home, Sarah.” This thought carried me through the entire experience.
When asked what her best memory was, Sarah replied, “It was the teamwork. We were a family. I felt like I had been there all my life. It never felt like I came from across the U.S. Those nurses had already been working for two weeks in that environment. I learned from them. I learned what to look for and how to manage things.”
Today, Sarah is back at work as a PACU nurse at Bailey. She has been overwhelmed with texts and expressions of gratitude.
“At first, I had a hard time with being thanked so much, because we are nurses. This is what we do. My sister helped me understand how people viewed what nurses are doing right now. She read the definition of hero to me from the dictionary. “I don’t feel like a hero, but I do understand why people were grateful.”