NEW YORK — Two local nurses have flown to New York City where they will soon be helping patients in the nation’s most critical city stricken with COVID-19.
Jana Strange Seal, a 60-year-old mobile nurse from Loogootee, and Colleen Clidienst, 56, from Cannelburg, flew to NYC on Sunday where they will be stationed until late July working for their mobile nurse company, American Mobile.
For the duo, who met each other on a Walk to Emmaus retreat about 15 years ago, the trip is about much more than employment. Working at Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan will be a chance to help those patients in need at their bedsides and possibly open doors to share their faith.
Seal says a recent dream validated her nudging to go to New York – a dream where she was walking through a plastic hallway in a makeshift hospital in the big city singing a Christian song to patients on the other side of the plastic.
“I was singing, ‘Way Maker’ to them. God had a plan for me to go to New York,” she said.
Finishing a nursing gig in St. Louis just recently, Seal said she and Clidienst had paperwork in place to go Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Due to the pandemic, there was a shortage in getting their background checks completed.
“That opened the door for New York wide,” Seal said.
While Clidienst was a traveling nurse years ago, this trip is her first mobile work recently, and it’s extra special because her daughter, Jacki, lives in Manhattan.
“She may come and see me across the street. They don’t get out very much, and they are trying to practice social distancing. I may see her, but probably not for the first week or so,” she added.
Five weeks ago Clidienst said she knew she was supposed to go back to bedside nursing, after recently working in risk management.
“That they had trouble getting us processed (for Methodist), and it’s so unreal because we had both worked at IU Med and Methodist,” she said.
So Seal suggested instead of Indianapolis, maybe they should serve in NYC, and then they found out it couldn’t just be for the normal two weeks. Their stint in New York will last 13 weeks, and will finish up with two more weeks of quarantine before they can leave.
Clidienst said, “I just said we’re going to pray about it, and believe God is going to place us wherever we are supposed to be, and then we got the call this week and they said, ‘What about New York?’”
Seal, who’s been in nursing since 1985, said she had a few patients in St. Louis who were in the hospital by themselves, and now that the coronavirus is rampant, many patients can’t have visitors. “I can’t stand for anyone to be in want or need. This whole thing is pretty bad,” she said.
Her family was worried about her going to New York at first. “But when you’re walking as a Christian, you shouldn’t have all this fear. You should have confidence in Christ and trust. Otherwise you are no different than the world,” Seal added.
She plans to share her faith with patients and co-workers who might want to listen, “but I don’t force it on them.”
Clidienst said she is doing this medical trip in part because she was inspired by scripture in Psalms 139:7-10 and in part to honor her aunt, “Ginny,” her father’s twin sister, who was stricken with COVID-19.
“If she had had the opportunity to go and do this, she would have. She always loved being a nurse.”
Sadly, Aunt Ginny passed away on Tuesday.
Her family too was a bit nervous about this journey, “but they all support me. My husband is my greatest supporter. God opened all these doors.
“Fear is my enemy, and I am to trust God,” she added, stressing that she wants her community members back home take the virus serious.
“Don’t be insensitive about this; we are probably going to have a lot more people die (in Daviess County). Let’s be compassionate and kinder to one another, whether we like or agree with someone,” she said.
The two nurses trained virtually on Monday from their hotel room, and visited the hospital on Tuesday.
The nurses say the New York community has already embraced them, honking their horns and shouting, “Thank You, thank you,” including some fire fighters they met on Tuesday. Even two Loogootee natives living in Manhattan have reached out to them to help, including doing their laundry.
Every evening at 7 in New York, self-quarantined residents hang out their apartment windows, flicker their lights, shout and ring cowbells in support of the medical staffers helping treat patients. (See video online related to this story.) It’s a practice now being done in Denver, and is expected to catch on in other big cities around the country.
“We know where we are and how we are to serve, and we know that we will come back to our families and that it’s all going to be OK,” Clidienst said.
“We have a country in need. I have a daughter in New York and our whole country needs us all right now. This is just showing brotherly love. We live in a great nation.”
She had some advice for locals back home: “Stay home, stay home, stay home. And, when you do have to go out, social distance and please wear a mask and wash your hands.”
“I have not seen our country like this since 9/11, and we’ll come back from this. We just have to social distance in heart and love.”