‘The worst thing I've ever seen:’ Florence nurse home after working 21 days in coronavirus hot spot

One nurse describes her experience working in America's hot spot for coronavirus.

Posted: Apr 27, 2020 5:11 PM
Updated: Apr 28, 2020 7:21 AM

A Florence nurse is now back at home after spending 21 days in the country's coronavirus hot spot, New York City.

Rachel Pochop was working in an ICU, experiencing just how deadly the virus can be first-hand. 

This photo of Rachel Pochop was taken the same day she lost three patients in one shift while in New York City. (Photo courtesy Rachel Pochop)

"I get being afraid of the virus, but it was the most natural thing of me to say yes," Pochop said.  Pochop said she has always had a place in her heart to serve others. Her mother, and four out of five siblings are nurses. She is currently an ER nurse at North Alabama Medical Center in Florence.  The hospital cut her hours because of the coronavirus, so she chose to spend that time volunteering in New York City.  She started her 21-day journey on April 5, helping the hardest hit area in the United States. 

"It feels almost undeserving to be called a hero or to be getting all this praise because I feel like that's what we're on this Earth to do, is to love people, and to serve people," Pochop asid. 

She admits it was hard, seeing people of all ages and health backgrounds lose their battle to the virus.

"I don't know how to talk to somebody on a phone and say hey, my name is Rachel, I'm calling you so you can say bye to your family via technology," Pochop said. "It was like, I'm sorry, emotional, um, just a really hard thing to do."

She said she knew she was not alone in this, often leaning on her co-workers, and even strangers. 

"Three to five people would come at the beginning of shift when we were loading the buses, and at the end and hold up signs saying, we love you and thank you, and blowing us kisses through the windows of the bus," Pochop said. "That sometimes was the thing I was looking forward to coming off shift."

While she knows the country is also facing economic devastation, she urges people to continue taking precautions by staying socially distant. 

"I'd rather beg every day of my life to feed my family then say goodbye to somebody that way or live through the devastation that this city's lived through," Pochop said. "It is horrendous, it is has been the worst thing I've ever seen."

She will be self-quarantining for at least 14 days. 

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