QUEENS, N.Y. — Lisseth DeGracia is in the middle of a 13 week stretch working inside the emergency room at Elmhurst Hospital in New York City.
"You’re wearing three layers of clothing, you’re sweating, you can’t see anything, you can’t breathe well yourself, but who are you to complain about having a mask on all day and not being able to breathe when these people literally can’t," Lisseth says.
Lisseth is originally from Richfield and currently works as a nurse at Children's Hospital in the Twin Cities.
She says everything lined up perfectly for her to go help out at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in U.S.
Lisseth describes the experience of holding the hand of one patient in particular who, like all of the patients, is in the hospital without their relatives.
"I’m telling her out loud I’m not going to let her die alone," she says. "You’re watching somebody literally, like, not breathe."
"Your job is to save people’s lives, " Lisseth says. "It’s a whole different thing when you can’t. You can’t save their life.”
"The biggest part of your job right then and there is not medicine, it’s not skill, it’s not prioritizing, it’s not critical thinking – it’s being a human," she adds.
When asked what message she wants all of us to hear, she says there are a couple of things. First of all, she wants everyone to know that the impact of COVID-19 is real and that people are losing their loved ones. "You might not have a job right now, you might not be able to pay for things right now – you might be going stir crazy," she says. "You’re losing luxuries in life. People are losing their family members, they’re losing their loved ones. They’re losing things that you can’t get back."
Secondly, she wants us all to hear this:
"Just love," Lisseth says. "Don’t take people in your life for granted. Don’t take things in your life for granted. When someone’s important to you, take every single opportunity you can to show them because you never know."