Eighteen years ago when she embarked on a career in nursing, Amy O’Sullivan never imagined she’d be on the frontlines of a global pandemic in New York City, treating the city’s first patient who passed 10 days later after being admitted on March 4th, 2020 from a confounding new strain of coronavirus. Recently featured as one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020, Amy, as well as fellow nurses and doctors started showing symptoms a few days after her patient passed away, which resulted in her becoming a patient herself. After being intubated and placed on a ventilator, O’Sullivan went home to rest, and within two weeks was back at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn to help hundreds of patients suffering from COVID-19.
After we saw Amy in a pair of Stance socks she had received as part of our #stanceforscrubs initiative which gives front line workers a free pair of socks for every Stance mask purchased, we reached out to ask her a few questions about what life is like on the frontlines, and the lessons she has learned as the world turned upside down. @Amyosurfn
"It was all overwhelming, but we all worked together as a team, trusted, and relied on each other."
First off Thank you for all that you, and your team do for those in need during this time. What was it like being on the front lines from the beginning of this pandemic until now?
There was very little precautions taken before the pandemic be it wearing mask, or PPE (personal protective equipment), screening patients for any recent travel to China was priority and specific symptoms, however now we know it affects everyone in the world and some with much different symptoms then which we first learned. I arrived that morning, It was a regular day, the sun was shinning, I even made my way to the gym that day to work out as I usually do during my lunch break. Little did I know my life and everyone else's lives after that day would change forever. The patient was placed in an isolation room. No one was allowed to enter the room except for those who were the primary care givers. Any one entering the room wore PPE, double mask (95 surgical mask covering the N 95), gloves, gown, and face shields. We had no idea she was to be our first of many Covid patients to enter Wyckoff Heights Medical Center here in Bushwick Brooklyn, NY. As we transported the patient upstairs to the ICU unit the halls were cleared of staff members and visitors. At that time no one knew how important it would be to wear a mask, and how wearing one would become the new normal. Following that day multiple staff, (including myself), were placed on quarantine. Most of them returning to work after the two weeks, only to find themselves with symptoms and some of them becoming very ill, yet recovering and returned back to work to fight the battle along side of me. From that day forward everyone on staff would find themselves in PPE gear. The following weeks the ER was bombarded with sick patients one patient every 2 to 3 minutes came into the emergency room most with the similar complaints, and experiencing Covid symptoms. It got to the point that all patients entering the ER were Covid positive. Every unit throughout the hospital was 100% Covid admissions, at that point the hospital turned the pediatric ER into a Covid ICU unit as well as the lobby area.
Some patients were able to walk into the emergency room, but most were so sick they had to call EMS (emergency medical services/ ambulance). It was all overwhelming, but we all worked together as a team, trusted, and relied on each other. At the end of the shifts some of us were crying, some of us so overwhelmed that without each other to talk to, we couldn't have made it through the days because no one on the outside could understand what we went through unless they saw, and felt this with us. From March-May there was constant flow of sick patients entering the ER 24 hours a day with no visitors and everyone instructed to wear mask at all times. Still to this day there's no visitors allowed in the emergency room, everyone must wear a mask entering the hospital, even outside on the street everyone's wearing mask.
After having COVID-19, what made you go back to work so soon?
I was back on my feet and feeling better about two weeks after being intubated. I had to get back to work, nursing is my passion, I needed to get back to my routine, I didn't want to be home feeling sorry for myself.
Why did you start wearing Stance and showing off your socks as your everyday uniform?
I discovered Stance in one of our favorite surf shops in Long Island, "UNSOUND" (@unsound_surf), near one of my favorite surf spots, Lincoln Beach. The colors, the designs, the fact that they are super cool, and there's not a better, more comfortable sock. On a daily basis my fellow nurses and doctors will lift my pants leg to look at my socks, and always complement the socks, the colors and the design, all begging me to buy a pair of Stance for them. Also because of the new style of scrubs called "joggers ", I'm able to roll my pants up and rock my Stance socks which is what I do every single day.
What do you do to unplug and relax from your profession?
Prior to Covid and now I walk to my favorite gym," BLINK" (@blinkfitness) which is 2 blocks from the hospital. I workout during my lunch break and return to work to finish my 12 hour shift. I have also recently discovered meditation, which is helping me cope with post Covid stress and anxiety. Since its Summertime, another favorite surf spot of mine is Long Beach Island, New Jersey, where we spent most of our Summer this year. We have to be near the water, we are a family of surfers, Ocean 13, Kali 11, Summer 5, and my partner Tiffany who paddles boards.
Is there any message you want to send to the Stance community?
My message would be to be active, be outdoors, and find something you really enjoy. Also to know you're not alone, and how you may be feeling today, will all pass. It's OK to talk about how you feel be it happy, or sad. Always know there's someone out there to listen. This time hasn't been easy for any of us. Thank you Albie Rosario (VP of Business Development at Stance) for this opportunity to talk to you. It makes me feel really good inside that you guys are doing something so great with #stanceforscrubs. I appreciate you reaching out to me, and thank you again.