Cheryl Webb returns to Monett from Coronavirus fight

Saturday, May 9, 2020
Monett nurse Cheryl Webb waved to friends who gathered to greet her on her return from working in New York City with COVID-19 (coronavirus) patients. The drive-through reception was held at the First United Methodist Church in Monett. Waving a sign is the Andrew Zahn family. Murray Bishoff/times-news@monett-times.com

Monett nurse spends three weeks on front lines

Local nurse Cheryl Webb received a hero’s welcome as she returned to Monett on Tuesday after three weeks of service in New York City as one of the frontline medical personnel treating COVID-19 (coronavirus) patients.

A crowd of 62 people, separated by social distancing, half remaining in their vehicles, waved, honked, sounded bells and held signs as Webb, still wearing a protective mask, was driven by her husband, Jason, through the church parking lot. She spoke briefly to people as she passed, then went home for two weeks of isolation in a camper.

Cheryl Webb sits down outside of Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn after working her 21st 12-hour shift as a frontline COVID-19 nurse. Contributed photo

Webb is a registered nurse at Cox Monett Hospital. She arranged to have her work shift covered for five weeks while she joined the national volunteers flying into the New York City COVID-19 hotspot, and for her isolation time after returning home.

“I made it back to the 417 — all in one piece — and healthy so far,” Webb said. “Still deciding how long I will wait before I get tested.

“Reflecting on my journey over these last few weeks, [there are] so many emotions. It’s strange to be home. Don’t get me wrong, I am so excited to see my family but feel a little guilty leaving my colleagues [at Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn] behind. At least I left knowing it is much improved over the last few weeks. The hospital had opened up a few extra ICUs to care for all of the ventilated patients — two of those have been able to close this week.”

The medallion Cheryl Webb received for her service as a frontline COVID-19 nurse in New York. Contributed photo

Webb expressed concern that the virus has not retreated. Many intensive care units she saw remained rather full.

“There are still patients getting intubated, but now it’s more like one overhead page a day for a code or anesthesia stat, as opposed to the first few days when it was about 8 to 10 a day,” Webb said. “The regular staff is nervous about a second wave. They’re concerned we will all be leaving and then it will hit. They’re scarred from the first surge for sure.

“I was speaking with a couple of them yesterday about their experience. The one nurse said she wanted to call in sick each day but they’d made a pact with their coworkers not to do that to each other. She said one day in her ICU there were two nurses to care for the 12 patients — normally would be about seven nurses for this. She said they didn’t have time to do absolutely anything except start at one end of the unit and hang medications and then when they got to the end it would be time to start over again.”

Webb noted staffing for patients also fell short on respiratory therapists to take care of the ventilators, and lab technicians to draw blood. All those tasks were being done by nurses. The nurses did it all.

“I had to learn how to adjust my vents myself,” she said. “About 80 percent of the vents I saw were travel ventilators that the state had purchased for the pandemic. They’re much less sophisticated, for sure.”

Webb had great praise for her co-workers. Others had also come from across the country. Her two favorites came from Poland, one of whom came down ill with the virus while Webb was there.

“There was a very special Navy doctor from Wisconsin that was so caring with my dying patient,” Webb said. “He had tears in his eyes when he gave me a medallion to thank me.

“I found myself crying the last day. I was feeding my patient who had gotten off of the ventilator the day before and I heard a knock on the door. It was the stoic ICU manager who was always very to the point. She wanted to tell me goodbye and thank me for coming. She said we were heroes to her. I literally had to step out of room and go to the lounge so I could remove my PPE and cry. I have grown to love the people of New York so much and can’t wait to come back.”

To those who supported her trip, Webb expressed her appreciation.

“Thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers,” she said. “And please, let’s all remember to love without borders as Jesus would have done.”

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