USD nursing alumnus joins COVID-19 front lines in New York


VERMILLION, South Dakota (KCAU) – Brandon Stanton, a University of South Dakota nursing graduate from the class of 2019 is on the front lines of the pandemic as an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital.

Like many others during this time, Stanton wondered how he could help in this time of need, and for him, that meant going to a place where help was needed the most.

In his first few weeks at NYP-Brooklyn, Stanton said he found understaffed units, shortages of personal protective equipment, and suffering patients.

“I have seen the devastation firsthand. People in New York are truly scared. I don’t want my family to ever feel the fear that is in the city,” Stanton said.

New York City has been at the center of the outbreak with staggering numbers of deaths and hospitalizations due to the virus. One of the most surprising things Stanton said he had seen so far is just how quickly the virus overwhelmed the hospital.

“NYP-Brooklyn has 650 beds, and around 40 of those are actual ICU beds. Over the course of this pandemic, 550 were converted into ICU beds,” Stanton said.

Stanton said a nurse often singlehandedly cares for six patients at one time, where typically there would be four nurses.

“Choosing to go to Brooklyn for me meant they had one more pair of hands to help,” Stanton said.

During Stanton’s first week at NYP-Brooklyn, he was one of only two ICU nurses in a psychiatric unit turned care unit. He was then moved to a pediatric intensive care unit that admits adults who are critically ill with the virus.

Stanton’s patients are intubated, ventilated, and on critical care drips, and one of his responsibilities includes turning the patients to prevent pressure ulcers. Stanton said it is nearly impossible with multiple machines.

“The problem is that most cannot tolerate simple repositioning, and their vital signs will quickly drop. I work so hard for my patients, and sometimes we only get negative news,” Stanton said.

To protect himself and his patients, Stanton wears head-to-toe protective equipment.

“I wear an N-95 mask covered by a simple surgical mask, a face shield, a hair cover, and a gown. I have learned to put a blister bandage on my nose to prevent it from getting rubbed raw. My ears are blistered by now, but there’s not much we can do about that,” Stanton said.

Now, in his fourth week, Stanton said the makeshift ICUs are starting to close and are reverting to their regular units. Stanton said it’s noticeably calmer, yet, he has hesitations.

“New York is planning to reopen in phases starting May 18. While it is calming down now, I have a fear that COVID-19 cases will increase again if people aren’t careful. There have been cases of people recovering, then the virus reactivates, and they get sick again. There are also rumors of a second strain going around too. The next month will be very telling about the future of COVID-19,” Stanton said.

Stanton, who accepted a contract to work eight weeks with four 12-hour shifts, will be in New York until June 13.

He lives in a small Brooklyn apartment and he says navigating the subway system has been interesting but fun.

Though this is the Onawa, Iowa, native’s first time to New York City, on his days off, he is often too exhausted to sightsee.

Stanton’s days are long, and he has seen the worst this virus can do, but he remains grateful to those who are doing their part to help those in need.

“I have so much respect and gratitude for all the front-line workers, and not just the health care workers. I thank anyone who is working to keep this country on its feet from the bottom of my heart,” Stanton said.

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