It’s 6:30 PM in Central Park. As the night shift takes their place among rows of white tents, nurses, doctors, and medical staff don their protective equipment, preparing for another night of caring for people struggling for their lives. For many, a fitful restless sleep makes it feel like they never left.
Among them is nurse Terri Kimble, one of the many healthcare workers heeding the call in the Coronavirus response effort to volunteer in New York City. For Kimble, who started her medical career as an EMT and currently works as an emergency room nurse, dealing with traumatic situations is second nature. Even with her experience and love of her work, dealing with Coronavirus in New York was particularly challenging.
“I’m an ER nurse,” Kimble says, “so I am used to saving lives. It was very difficult when we would lose a patient to this deadly monster of a disease in spite of our best efforts.”
Kimble and her peers stand ready to face the monster, a testament to their faith in God, and dedication to their work.
The Path to Nursing
When Kimble was young, she didn’t think she’d be a nurse, but her grandmother, an LVN, knew better. “When I was a little girl, my grandmother told me I was going to be a nurse,” says Kimble. “I didn’t believe her,” so, Kimble earned her first degree in elementary education. Then the bug bit. In 1995, Kimble started volunteering as an EMT. “I loved it so much that I became a paramedic in 1997.”
From there, her path to nursing opened. “The more I took care of my patients, I learned that I really was a nurse at heart and became an LVN in 1998 and an RN in 2005,” she says. Kimble earned her BSN in 2013 from UT Arlington.
Her nursing career includes med-surge (surgical nursing), school nursing, family practice, and her “favorite,” emergency room nursing. Kimble has spent 21 of her 24 years working at HCA Houston Healthcare Tomball in the ER. She is also an adjunct LVN instructor at Montgomery College.
With all her experience, Kimble is a perfect example of the value of continuing education. Drawn to its “impeccable reputation and Christian values,” she is currently enrolled in HCU’s Master of Science in Family Nurse Practitioner degree program. Kimble speaks highly of her instruction at HCU and the “godly professors and their emphasis on true, Biblical truth that is incorporated into all the disciplines.”
Traveling Nurse Answering the Call
Kimble first heard of the Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) at a mission conference two years ago. Hearing of their emergency field hospital mission in Iraq jibed with her love of emergency medicine. “ As I saw the desperate physical as well as spiritual needs, I told the Lord, ‘If you open this door, I will run through it!’”
The door opened and Kimble was accepted into the organization. Kimble completed her training in September 2019, receiving her first deployment the following April to join other healthcare volunteers helping NYC grapple with the explosion of COVID-19.
Inspiration in Crisis
While often heartbreaking, there are moments of joy and inspiration in crisis. “When a patient was discharged home,” Kimble says, “we would have a parade of staff walk them out while clapping and ringing bells. It truly was a victory celebration.”
That feeling of celebration was no more germane than for the patients that won their battle with the virus. “I loved to see their faces as they would look back at all of us cheering them on. Each patient I saw left in tears while thanking us. I cried with each departure, thanking God for being able to be a part of their healing,” says Kimble.
Even for those amidst their fight with the disease, as a volunteer in New York City, Kimble found inspiration and hope. She recounts the difficulty one patient had with her C-PAP. “She kept raising up in bed, her eyes wide and I could see she was scared.” Kimble stayed with her, held her hand, and stroked her arm while playing Christian music on her cell phone and holding it to her patient’s ear. “After about 30 minutes, she fell asleep. It was times like these that I felt I was really making a difference and it felt good.”
Giving comfort and care in unprecedented circumstances, her faith and humanity kept her going.
Life on the Front Lines as a Volunteer in New York City
Working with COVID-19 patients is grueling. Not only must healthcare workers deal with patients sick with a new and deadly disease, but they also work under punishing and risky conditions.
“It was a challenge to work in the PPE gear,” says Kimble. “We wore boots, bodysuit, double gloves, N95 masks, hairnet, and face mask. There was a strict adherence required to maintain aseptic technique.” The most enervating part of the work is, of course, watching so many patients succumb to the virus. “I knew they were getting state of the art medical care, but unfortunately, we saw many die. Many of them I got to know very well and fell in love with them quickly.”
Kimble and her colleagues did their best to make all patients as comfortable as possible, “not only with our medical interventions but with back and foot rubs,” she says.
Kimble is now back home in Texas, continuing her work as a nurse at HCA Houston Healthcare Tomball and studying for her MSN-FNP degree at HCU. She expects to graduate in December. It’s just another step in the life of an everyday hero.
“I am so humbled by this experience,” Kimble says. “I was able to show the love of God by being the hands and feet of Jesus to these precious people. Though physically demanding, God was my strength and He showed His hand in so many different situations.”