HERE TO HELP PEOPLE
Sarah Jones: Camp Nurse and Frontline Worker
By Sam Hirt
Like most of you, I’ve now been at my house for a month-and-a-half in quarantine under the Indiana stay-at-home order issued by Governor Holcomb. As someone who works from home part of the time, I’ve been home for a couple weeks longer than that. I’ve left the house a few times for essential items, but mostly – like the rest of you – I’ve just been home.
To be honest, I feel anxious and a little scared sometimes. My wife is pregnant, and while we’re not due until the end of September, I’m nervous about appointments and trips to the doctor. I’m worried about my family and friends and money, and I’m constantly looking for small signs that this whole thing is subsiding in any way.
I bring all this up because I am constantly reminding myself that I have the luxury of hiding from this virus in my own home, secure with the one I love. Is it possible for me to get the virus still? Of course. But if I continue to practice social distancing and take the precautions, and stay at home – then is it likely I get the virus? Probably not.
Again, this is a luxury.
There are so many people who don’t have that luxury. People who continue to go to work to feed us, protect us, heal us. Sarah Jones, a longtime camp nurse, is one of those people. When she’s not volunteering two weeks of her summer to help take care of campers at Camp Tecumseh, she’s working in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Methodist Hospital in downtown Indianapolis.
“I always had a passion to help others.”
When Sarah was younger, her grandfather got sick. She helped care for him in any way she could, and that sparked something inside her that led to her career as a nurse.
She went to Purdue, not to become a nurse at first, but eventually realized that was where she was headed, and combined her passion with her studies. Also while at Purdue, Sarah attended a career fair and found Camp Tecumseh.
She began working weekends on high ropes in 2006. That led to eventually working as a camp nurse where she’s consistently volunteered every summer for 7 years now.
“I’ve always enjoyed camp. It’s a learning environment and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Now, she’s what we’re all calling a frontline worker. Of course, there could be a case made that healthcare workers are always frontline workers, but now more than ever, Sarah’s life and work and passion are being put to work to treat those affected by COVID-19.
When I talked to Sarah, on April 3, she matter-of-factly characterized things as stressful. I felt that must be an understatement, but it speaks to the professionalism and character of Sarah Jones – a person who takes care of others and keeps a level head.
But she stressed some of the challenges hospitals were (and still are) facing: a shortage of masks, and not enough beds to go around. Plus, as we’ve learned as this has gone on, there is always so much unknown about how and when this will spike, so hospitals were dealing with the idea that they’d have to make difficult decisions as to who would receive ventilators and who may not.
Sarah is measured. I asked how things were different on a day-to-day basis and she said, “In some ways, I feel like it’s a normal workday.” I got the sense that Sarah is someone who isn’t overly daunted by hard work. But some protocol had changed, most noticeably the lack of visitors. Typically, when healthcare workers inform a family of a patient’s progress, they do so in person at the hospital. Now, not only were there no visitors for many patients, but doctors were strapped for time and logistically unable to make calls to families. Nurses like Sarah stepped up.
“You’ve got to make time to talk to families.”
When Sarah and I were talking, I think I was slightly prodding for some emotional story or response about the difficulty of her job during COVID-19. Sarah, however, remained so matter-of-fact and professional throughout the conversation.
She really seemed like the kind of nurse you’d want: a person there to get the job done in any circumstance, whether volunteering during summer camp, or in the ICU at Methodist in downtown Indianapolis.