Most New Yorkers are doing their part, social distancing to protect elderly and vulnerable friends and family, in the struggle to flatten the curve and keep the coronavirus from overwhelming our hospitals. But some are going far above and beyond.
The Post’s profiles of some of these heroes tell of their inspiring work on the front lines, a testament to the never-sleeps New York attitude.
Take respiratory therapists Bryan Zabala and Jennifer Cubero. The 30-something couple have 1- and 3-year-old children at home — and she’s eight months pregnant. But they keep on running ventilators at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Hospital (her) and NYU Langone-Brooklyn (him). “Given the circumstances, it’s crazier than usual for us. So then, being pregnant, it’s a challenge,” Cubero admitted — but she hasn’t given up.
Emergency-room technician Megan Benjamin, 32, goes days without seeing her kids, aged 9, 4 and 2. The mom works 13-hour days in an overnight ER at Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center, clocking 50 to 60 hours a week since the crisis began. “It takes a little bit of an emotional toll,” she . . . well, understated.
As her dad Gil told The Post, “She’s the one putting herself at risk every day. She’s the one who sometimes comes home and cries because of what she sees during the day but still goes back to work so she can help the next family, the next person.”
Nermeen Botros, the chief medical resident at Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, is working 80-hour, six-day weeks — and then some. She’s on call 24/7 supervising young residents, who call as late as 3 a.m. “It’s not only for medical information, it’s because it’s a serious situation for all of us, so many of the residents are scared of the disease, scared of the death,” she revealed.
Indeed: “This is more death than we are used to seeing, and the death is totally indiscriminate,” said Rocky Walker, a chaplain at Mt. Sinai Hospital. He delivers the final words of patients dying alone in glass rooms to their family members.
Only chaplains sent by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York cross the threshold of patients’ rooms, getting as close as they can to make eye contact and hear confession. If they can fully suit up in protective gear, they give Communion.
Health care workers aren’t the only ones stepping up. Eduardo Marino, 59, a Queens driver for Uber and Lyft who lives with his 88-year-old mom, has upped his hours from 40 to 60 a week, as he ferries people to and from hospitals and grocery stores, disinfecting his car regularly.
Boerum Hill’s True Care Pharmacy owner Omar Abouelnas, 26, is giving away medicine to those who can’t afford it, including newly jobless bartenders and musicians. “I haven’t kept track of how many people we’ve helped out, but we’ve given out mostly blood-pressure pills, diabetes pills, antibiotics and generics for chronic illnesses,” he reports.
Chaplain Walker likened the battle to a real war: “It reminds me so much of the time I spent in Desert Storm,” he said. “It’s not a natural thing to go toward the sound of a gun that’s trying to shoot you. That’s what health care workers are doing every day when they get out of bed and come into the hospital.”
How blessed, this town, to hold such heroes.
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