A local nurse practitioner has answered the call from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo asking for medical professionals from all over the country to come to the Empire State and help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
New York City has been among the hardest hit areas in our country so far in terms of confirmed cases, lives lost and economic damage. It truly is akin to a war zone in many ways, but Whitley County’s own Adrian Gray has willingly gone into the fray, because she knows that she has the skills and the knowledge necessary to make a difference.
“They were asking for people with my specialty to respond,” Gray said. “I knew what I was getting into. They basically called it a wartime situation, but I talked to my company, and they thought I should respond. My kids are grown and in college, but I asked them to make sure they were comfortable with it, and they were both excited for me to go help.”
Gray is a nurse practitioner with Grace Health in Corbin. She grew up in the area, graduating from Whitley County High School in the 90’s. After going to Eastern Kentucky University to become a registered nurse, she earned her Master’s from Lincoln Memorial University in 2010.
When asked about her career path, Gray commented, “I practice in rural southeastern Kentucky, and my population has multiple needs. There are many health issues that I address on a daily basis, and I love taking care of those people. I felt compelled to go into nursing as a servant in order to assess the needs of our people, and to see what I could do to accommodate them, to help them live better lives.”
After serving the local community for so many years, Gray has now been presented with the opportunity to apply her skills in a time and place where they are certainly needed most – in the epicenter of this country’s coronavirus outbreak.
“I watched the news, surfed the Internet and tried to find out as much information as I could about this virus,” Gray said of the research she conducted before leaving for the Big Apple. “I wanted to know how contagious it was, but it ultimately came down to the fact that I went into healthcare and became a nurse in order to help sick people. I knew coming in that this would be an unknown, but people with my skill set were called into action, and this is what I have ability to do.”
While Gray does admit to some feelings of nervousness leading up to making the trip north, she still feels as if New York is where she needs to be right now. “I’ve been smart,” she said. “I’ve used my senses and I’ve used protective gear, but everyone up here is nervous. The truth is that it is as bad as everyone thinks it is back home. This isn’t fake news. This is real news. Several hospitals have lost multiple staff members to this virus. It is really ugly up here.”
Gray is currently at the halfway point of a 21-day contract to help with the relief effort in NYC, but she said that the option to extend that stay is available when-and-if the time comes. She said that she wants to do all that she can to help the situation there, but she also understands that she has to do what is in the best interests of her company as well. “If I start hearing that the virus is becoming a problem back home, I will leave here and come back,” she said.
For now, though, Gray is focusing all of her energy towards turning the tide in the fight against COVID in New York, and she says that what she’s seen so far has been nothing short of surreal. “The city has shut down,” she explained. “Times Square is empty. I’ve been up here several times, and it’s just the weirdest thing to be able to open up your window and hear silence. It’s been rough on New Yorkers, but everyone has done so well with compliance, and embracing the spirit of helping one another.”
As for when Gray does return home, she admits that she does have some concerns about bringing the virus with her, but processes will be in place to help ensure that, should she be a carrier, she will not facilitate the spread of COVID-19 in our local area. Of course, she will be tested for the virus herself, and once she is back in Kentucky she will be required to self-quarantine for an extended period of time.
After that, Gray said that she is hopeful to be able to take what she has learned during her time in New York, and apply it to our own battle against the coronavirus here in the tri-counties.
“I want to bring this information back to the people that I serve in southeastern Kentucky,” Gray said. “I’m up here right now, working with hospitals and trying to get as much information as I can, so that if it gets bad at my home, I can use it to help our people.”
Those of us still here in Whitley, Laurel, Knox Counties and surrounding areas are hoping that things won’t escalate to a worst-case-scenario level in the coming days. In order to help ensure that doesn’t happen, Gray advised, “This is real. Any misconception that this is something that the media is hyping up is not true. It is real, and it is as dangerous as they say it is. It is highly contagious, and we need to be prepared for it.”
“Adhere to the rules,” Gray continued. “Social distancing is working. We see it up here in New York. It does seem to be helping. Wash your hands, and stay home. Keep your kids at home. Keep your teens at home. This is also not a good time to be visiting family, especially if they are sick or elderly people. This is not a joke.”
There is some hope right now that certain restrictions will begin to be lifted once we reach the first of May, and maybe, just maybe, life will begin to get back to normal. Gray said that, in her opinion, each state will have to make a determination on that individually, but as for New York, she is afraid that it may take a while before people are able to go back to their old lives.
“It’s going to be hard,” Gray said of the road ahead for New Yorkers. “They need to get back to work, but they’ve been traumatized by all of this. It’s just going to be hard.”