Instagram | @rae.hartley

Nurse Sails 35 Hours To Aid NYC During COVID-19 Crisis: 'I Have To Go Help'

Ryan Ford 22 May 2020

The most positive thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is just how many people have stepped up to help out whoever is most in need in whatever way they can. And the world has seldom seen such need in so many ways as it has in the first half of 2020.

Among the many people selflessly setting their own lives aside to help others is Rachel Hartley, who didn't hesitate to step in to fill a need that was far from her own backyard.

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In early April, when much of the Northeast was still just starting to erupt with COVID-19 cases, Hartley was in Virginia.

Instagram | @rae.hartley

She was working as a pre-op anaesthesia nurse and with elective surgeries canceled, she was getting fewer and fewer shifts. However, she was also following the situation in New York, where things were rapidly getting worse.

"The day that Governor Cuomo took away the need for a nurse to have a New York state license to practice here really hit me hard," Hartley told Yahoo Life. "I knew New York was in a dire crisis, and I thought, I need to go. I need to leave Virginia and come to New York City."

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Feeling like she had skills to offer that were in need and not being used, Hartley decided to drop everything and head to New York.

"I was hearing how badly New York City had been hit — and the area I was in wasn’t nearly as bad," she told the New York Post. "That really pulled on my heart. I thought, I have to go help."

Soon enough, she put in her two weeks noticed, got in touch with a recruiter, and planning the trip to New York.

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Hartley and her husband, Taylor, own a 50-foot sailboat, the Turning Point, and it turned out to be the ideal vessel for the journey.

Instagram | @rae.hartley

While a car would get them to New York faster, the pair could actually live on the boat while in the city - and to show their appreciation for her help, the One15 Marina in Brooklyn offered to dock them for free for two months, which would normally set them back about $11,000.

So, after a 35-hour trip through cold, choppy waters, Rachel and Taylor finally reached New York on Easter Sunday.

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Amazingly, it wasn't the first time Rachel had done some nursing duty in New York.

Instagram | @rae.hartley

While she had just been in town as a tourist, in 2017 she happened to be on the scene when a man drove deliberately onto the sidewalk in Times Square.

"It was like a horror film, all these hundreds of people were screaming and running from the scene," she told New York Magazine. "Everyone else was running away but me being a nurse, I ran towards."

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Back in New York and running into danger again, Hartley has been able to relieve the healthcare workers there regularly.

Instagram | @rae.hartley

"The nurses that are permanently here are so exhausted and worn out," she said. "That's why I'm here."

Although she has been a critical care nurse in the past, spending two years in working the ICU, Hartley says the conditions in New York have been "sobering."

"It was what I expected, and I think worse also," she said.

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Hartley said that the most surprising thing has been how many young, otherwise healthy patients she has seen "all intubated, sedated, and chemically paralyzed."

"It really makes me hope and pray the public takes things seriously," she said.

Nevertheless, she said she's open to staying on after her two-month contract is up in June.

"We decided really quickly that our personal health and our personal safety is not our priority, right now our priority is to help other people," she told WABC. "So that's just something that we know is a risk and we're OK with that, we're content with that."

h/t: New York Magazine, Yahoo Life, WABC

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