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Canadian nurse on the frontlines in America

Canadian nurse on the frontlines in America

HRAUN/iStockBy AARON FERRER, ABC NEWS

(NEW JERSEY) — Paige Nelson is a nurse who was living in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons, age four and five, before she decided to cross the border into the United States to aid other healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

“You see people dying and you see people doing back to back shifts because there’s not enough staff. And it’s just like this crushing heart feeling that you’re just sitting at home like not that being at home with my kids, being a mom isn’t enough. But there is just a yearning to do more because you know that you can help, ” Paige told ABC News’ “Perspective” podcast. 

Paige’s desire to help brought her to Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey, a state with the second most deaths in the nation just behind neighboring New York. According to the New Jersey Department of Health, there have been 8,952 deaths due to the virus and a total of 135,454 confirmed cases. 

New Jersey has more than doubled the number of confirmed cases in her native Canada, who has seen over 67,000 infections across the country according to data collected by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at John Hopkins University.  The U.S. currently has 1,283,929 positive infections, over a million more than Spain’s 222,857, second most in the world.

In Bergen county where the hospital is located, they have seen the most confirmed cases in the state with 16,709. Paige stays in the area at a hotel while working more than 12 hours a day, four days a week and offering to take extra shifts if needed. “They actually have a command center where all of the travel nurses check in for the day and then they allocate you to the specific floor that has the need for the day. And then you just go about your day trying to care for your patients the best you can.”

 Listen to the rest of this week’s highlights from the Perspective podcast

On May 1st, The Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of antiviral medication Remdesivir to treat COVID-19 patients. The drug was originally created and developed by biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc. to treat those suffering from Ebola. 

But, they are battling the unknown according Paige, “I was talking to a doctor the other day and he kind of summed it up perfectly when he said, you don’t know what exactly you’re trying to do because every patient is different and what works for one patient won’t work for another. So it’s really frustrating and it changes day to day and you don’t know what you do one day. You might have to do something completely different the next day.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued a stay-at-home order on March 21st to try and stem the spread of the virus but state parks, golf courses, and county parks reopened on May 2nd. Murphy said the state would need to see a 14-day decline of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations before easing other restrictions as part of the “Road Back” plan. 

Paige will be spending another five weeks in the garden state, meaning she will be socially distancing from her family instead of spending Mothers day with them back home. She is hopeful her children will one day understand, “Hopefully it was just a little bit of a blip on their timescale. But I hope that maybe they’re proud of me when they grow up and kind of understand what I did and why I did it.”

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