Doctors, nurses across US answer call for help in COVID-19 epicenter, New York

With many health care workers falling ill and fighting exhaustion, nurses and doctors are traveling from around the country or from outside their practice area, to provide aid in New York.
8:15 | 04/09/20

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Transcript for Doctors, nurses across US answer call for help in COVID-19 epicenter, New York
It is 18:22. April 2nd. On the road. Driving to nyc. Icu nurses, Jamie and Ryan, on a whirlwind road trip from their home in Oklahoma to new York City, after responding to an online posting for crisis travel nurses. They're the arches. Yeah. Passing St. Louis. Six hours into the drive. I feel like it's our responsibility to step up and do what we've been trained to do and what we've known and felt like was our calling to do. Jamie and Ryan, part after growing wave, nurses by the hundreds, who will work 12 hour shifts for 21 straight days. Their helping hands desperately needed in New York City. Where there are more dead from covid-19 than the 9/11 terror I am asking health care professionals across the country, if you don't have a health care crisis in your community, please come help us in New York now. We need relief. Governor Cuomo temporarily suspending New York state license requirements, paving the way for licensed doctors and nurses from around the country to respond to that S.O.S. I'm from Alabama. I'm currently in New York City helping with the covid-19 crisis. We're from Atlanta to new York to help fight the crisis. Staffing agencies financially incentivized this work, paying so-called crisis rates that are higher than regular rates, ranging from $4,000 to $10,000 per week. That financial incentive, I think, is obviously a big part of what got us here initially, but over the course of this trip and getting here, we've seen, in ourselves, kind of a spiritual shift, if you will. This isn't going to end in New York. This is going to be in our back yard at home. And I would hope that some nurses would take a step away from their families for a second and come help us if we needed it. The couple learns they'll both be on the overnight shifts and working in intensive care units but separated. Ryan is assigned to a hospital in Manhattan, Jamie to one in Brooklyn. We're going to our respective hospitals, ready to get to work. Lot of anticipation, an idea of what we're going into, but should really know here shortly. A few days into their work, reality starts to sink in. It is bad. They are absolutely overloaded. Patients are incredibly sick. Everyone's vented. Everybody's covid-19. It is exactly what you would expect. The nurses are overworked. They're having a hard time. And they've been doing this for nurse. We can't build a nurse, can't build a doctor out of thin air, so you have to get them here. Luke Adams drove from Pennsylvania to Staten Island last month, committing to a 13-week deployment. Reality's starting to set in, day six. He slept in this baby mattress in the back of his rental SUV for more than a week. It's not supposed to be as cold tonight, which is good. After two days of onboarding at the hospital, Luke hit the ground running. I'm helping them with 16 patients. It's a lot more than I'm used to. Back in the old world, what was the load like? You were usually a two-to-one ratio, having 16 of those critically ill patients on 16-1 sounds impossible. I would have agreed with you until I started doing it. It's not just me. There are other nurses there. But through all chaos and despair, he finds solace in victories. Over two weeks ago, they had already been there when I got there. Yesterday as I was leaving the hospital, there they were still in the same rooms but now they're off the ventilator. The success stories are starting to a I cannot begin to describe how much that makes a difference. For two straight weeks it felt like we were losing. I've showered and ready for bed. He's now in the hotel after the city found him free housing. But even the pillow and mattress are no match for home. His baby daughter and 8-year-old son hundreds of miles away. I know you want your example to be a teachable moment for your children. What do you want them to take from what you're doing right Every emergency calls on a different service. And the skills that I've honed over the last 11 years were suddenly in need. If you have the ability, you have the responsibility, and that's what I want my kids to know. What do you think right now? Where'd you go? Home. Seeing them again. Especially my son. Maybe he's watching'. If he is, what might you say to him, pop? You know, this will pass, and I will be home. So there's no need to worry. I know this was difficult, but the three months that I'm gone would have paled in comparison to how I would have felt if I didn't help. Beyond reenforcements from the outside like Luke, many hospitals are transitioning staff out of speciality areas. Before covid-19, he spent his days working on elbows. Now he and one of his residents, Dr. Lynn Ann forster are teamed up in the emergency room, treating patients with covid-19. We have all these icu beds that never existed, and all these patients filling these beds who are ventilated, sick, and need care that our emergency room teams and regular icu teams cannot cover by themselves. They just can't do it. Sounds like you went from being an orthopedic surgeon to medical marine. We basically, that's exactly, I was doing stuff I haven't done in 25 years. Dr. Levine is one of 2,000 doctors the New York presbyterian system has working. I have cried more in the last couple weeks than I have in the last couple years honestly. I think the weight of the whole experience catches up with you. How long can people stand up and do what you and your colleagues have to do? We still have 2400 in patients in the New York presbyterian system. Covid-19 positive. And we have a lot of work to do and a lot to get us past this point. We have had 2,000 doctors volunteer to be redeployed, and we haven't had to twist anybody's arm. The level of commitment has been extraordinary. Everyone rising to the occasion. The outpouring of selflessness is really and it's a real spirit. It's the American spirit. It's the New York spirit. It's a can-do attitude. It's been said adversity doesn't tear down character. It builds it. Every night, New York shows its character, the city stop, applauses. Covid-19 may have left many across New York and America helpless, but not hopeless. I didn't expect that. For Jamie and Ryan, New York City is not their home, but now, forever, it is in their hearts.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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