LENOIR, N.C. (AP) — Chris Rutledge peels an N-95 masks off her drained face, revealing the silhouette it leaves behind. Her identify and a tiny coronary heart are drawn on the face overlaying in black marker so her sufferers know who she is.
“I look horrible when it comes off,” she jokes as she takes a break throughout her ninth straight day of 12-hour shifts inside a brief subject hospital in Lenoir, North Carolina.
Rutledge, a 60-year-old retired nurse from Lisbon, Iowa, is considered one of dozens of well being care employees who’ve been treating coronavirus sufferers inside 11 huge white medical tents arrange within the car parking zone of Caldwell Memorial Hospital.
The tents grew to become vital in late December when the virus started surging via this rural neighborhood within the Carolina foothills, overwhelming the hospital’s capability. The tents have been arrange earlier this month.
“We doubled the variety of COVID sufferers in a matter of days,” mentioned Caldwell CEO Laura Easton, who added that the hospital thought it had seen its circumstances peak over the summer time. “And we doubled our hospital census.”
The tents and care givers have been supplied by Samaritan’s Purse, a global Christian reduction charity led by evangelist the Rev. Franklin Graham that’s primarily based in Boone, North Carolina. The 30-bed subject hospital contains 4 medical wards and a pharmacy for sufferers who’ve been discharged from the hospital’s intensive care unit and don’t want ventilators. 4 different hospitals moreover Caldwell are sending sufferers right here to allow them to use hospital beds for extra critical circumstances.
“The tent is a scary place for an individual that’s by no means been in it,” Rutledge mentioned, referring to the sufferers as she washed her fingers for the fifth time in just some minutes. “A few of them are very tearful and a few of them are literally sobbing.”
However Rutledge calls her work a blessing. Three years in the past, she left her full-time nursing job to affix short-term medical missions with Samaritan’s Purse. When the group mobilizes its Catastrophe Help Response Staff (DART), Rutledge will be on a aircraft inside hours.
This isn’t the primary time Samaritan’s Purse has supplied help through the pandemic. The group, which has partnerships in additional than 100 nations, opened its first COVID-19 subject hospital on March 16, 2020, in Cremona, Italy, when the virus first started to surge within the U.S. and around the globe. Two weeks later, Samaritan’s Purse tents have been pitched in New York Metropolis’s Central Park, the place Rutledge and others on its medical staff handled a whole bunch of sufferers in partnership with the Federal Emergency Administration Company and the state of New York. The charity additionally lately erected a subject hospital in Lancaster, California.
Whereas the work is bodily and emotionally grueling, Rutledge mentioned she has no regrets.
“Individuals requested me if I’d do it once more after the New York expertise and I mentioned I’d do it in a heartbeat,” she mentioned.
Rutledge is grateful for a supportive husband who cheers her on from their residence in Iowa. She mentioned her spiritual religion sustains her throughout a lot of the lengthy days — together with moments of hope that appear to current themselves when she wants them most.
She smiles recalling the aged couple who celebrated their 49th wedding ceremony anniversary whereas battling the coronavirus collectively, and the way she walked the husband to his spouse’s ward to go to. Rutledge mentioned she cried the primary time she noticed the couple reunited. She wept once more after they have been cleared to go residence, virus-free.