For six years, Crystal has been a physician’s assistant in Long Island, New York. Her main job is for Northwell Health Outpatient Internal Medicine where she serves as a clinical provider. She travels between both Long Island Counties of Nassau and Suffolk. But Crystal also works per diem at an urgent care center in Merrick, Long Island, which is about 30 miles from Manhattan or a 45-minute train ride.
“ She didn’t think it would be anything more than other viruses and flu epidemics that have originated in those areas. ”
Geographically, the most western points of Long Island become the New York City Burroughs of Queens and then Brooklyn. Residents living east of the New York City limits are confined to the rest of the narrow island which stretches eastward for 100 miles or so. About a fifth of its work force travels to jobs in Manhattan every day, many using public transportation.
Crystal, who is a professing Christian and the mother of two young children, says when news of the corona virus first publicized from China, she didn’t think it would be anything more than other viruses and flu epidemics that have originated in those areas. She felt like the usual rules of washing hands and coughing into your arm would be the extent of the necessary precautions.
“ She knew this virus would spread quickly, and that panic in this densely populated metropolitan area was likely to spread even faster. ”
But when the second case of Covid-19 surfaced in the New York Metropolitan area—and that person had never been near the first person—the commuter train they rode turned out to be the common denominator. That’s when Crystal started to be very concerned. She knew this virus would spread quickly, and that panic in this densely populated metropolitan area was likely to spread even faster.
That was the beginning of March—and from that moment on, her urgent care center has been deluged with phone calls. Crystal says her first day of work as they began testing patients for the virus left her emotionally drained. Even though she held it all together while at her job, she felt like crying the whole day. Every single patient had symptoms.
“ Every single patient had symptoms. ”
In 2019, the population of Nassau County, Long Island, where Crystal’s urgent care center is located, was estimated to be 1.357 million. By late April, 136,806 cases of the virus had been confirmed, while there had been 10,344 deaths and 18,018 recoveries (World Health Organization).
Crystal’s private practice at Northwell, which is mostly elderly patients, saw a substantial drop in activity as patient appointments were pushed to telephone and video calls. However, the number of patients at the urgent care doubled and tripled, making that former part-time job now become Crystal’s dominant work place. Generally, they are doing 20-40 tests a day. There haven’t been enough tests available to test everyone that comes to them, but many un-tested people probably have the virus. Based on this, there are probably many more cases than are being reported, Crystal explains. Medical personnel have to choose to test those that have the worst symptoms, and they also prioritize first responders and health care workers.
“ She is grateful for the response of community. ”
Crystal feels that she and her colleagues are working under safe conditions. They meet people in their cars for testing, rather than bringing them into the building where exposure to one another would be greater. “We wear all the head gear,” she says. “And we have good supplies for the care that we give out.”
Crystal says that none of her patients have passed away and only a few have had to be ventilated. She thanks God that so far their outcomes have been good. She is grateful for the response of community. She laughs as she says she is gaining weight from all the free food coming into the work place. Despite all this, she finds the work emotionally draining. Contributing largely to this is the fear factor that has overwhelmed the patients and people in general. They are terrified—and it is challenging to be a calming presence in the midst of fear. Dealing with the panic has brought Crystal closer to God, she says. “It reminds me of why I am here.”
“ Without the confidence of having God in her life, Crystal isn’t certain how she would do this. ”
She is learning to calmly encourage her patients, reminding them that there is a low chance they will end up in the hospital and a high chance of recovery. She offers them all the support she can. Without the confidence of having God in her life, Crystal isn’t certain how she would do this.
Even so, she has witnessed many tough situations. One case that comes to her mind often is of a mother and adult son who drove up to be tested. Both had the virus but it was clear to Crystal that the mother was going to need to be ventilated. However, this was determined after they took her inside, while her son remained in the car. She and her son were unable to speak to one another after the decision was made. There was no time to say good-bye.
“ The fact that people are unable to visit their loved ones who have been hospitalized is what Crystal considers one of the most heart-breaking factors of this pandemic. ”
The fact that people are unable to visit their loved ones who have been hospitalized is what Crystal considers one of the most heart-breaking factors of this pandemic. She says she has friends working in hospitals that sit with patients every chance they have, mostly at the request of the families. There has been an outpouring of love for the patients from the health care workers. Crystal says there are numerous stories of medical personnel sitting by the patient’s bedside, holding their hand, and delivering messages from the family. Remembering that they are not forgotten and are loved has a vital impact on the anxious, sick, isolated patients.
Crystal says she has a couple co-workers who have been infected with Covid-19 and have recovered. She says the overall outlook of health workers has vastly improved since the beginning of the outbreak. At that time, she says, everyone was scared and crying. Some quit their jobs. Now they have bonded together to get through and get the patients through this pandemic.
God’s presence in her life has made all the difference to Crystal. This she repeated over and over. Even though she is working long hours, she is spending more time in prayer, devotions, and Bible reading. She has learned to trust in Him a little more each day. At first, she, too, was scared and anxious about how she would have enough child care, how all the bills would be paid, and how her needs would be met; but God has provided for all of these needs and more. She is grateful.
“ Crystal says that those of us who are not in these hot zones but just quarantined in our homes, should pray for the sick and the health care workers and for the health and safety of all of us. ”
On the day of our interview, she told of one more incident that had just taken place and greatly encouraged her faith that God’s hand was evident in all this. She was at her place of employment and preparing for our interview by looking over the questions I had sent her. She was also listening to her pastor’s sermon from the day before as she had been working on Sunday. At that moment a co-worker walked into the room and realized that Crystal was a Christian. She told Crystal that she was also a Christian and it “was so great to know there was another Christian here.”
That made Crystal’s day, she said. “It was like God talking to me.”
Crystal knows that God has her where He is using her and she is making a difference. When this is over and life returns to normal, she hopes she and her family will become more involved with their church and work that reaches to others to share the gospel.
Crystal says that those of us who are not in these hot zones but just quarantined in our homes, should pray for the sick and the health care workers and for the health and safety of all of us. She encouraged us to make sure our neighbors have food and supplies, especially the elderly. Because she is staying connected to her elderly Northwell patients—she especially feels their plight of being alone and often anxious and depressed. “Reach out to them by phone,” she told me.
“This is happening for a reason,” Crystal comments. She hopes that it will cause us as a country to prioritize our values better. To realize what is important and what is not as important. For herself, she desires to get closer and closer to God. Not a bad idea for any of us!
Emma’s Story, written by Emma
My name is Emma and I live in Casper, Wyoming. My faith has definitely been put to the test recently. It is currently my senior year in high school and now it seems that COVID-19 has taken a lot of things away from me. I had big plans for this time in my life, but those plans have now been whisked away like they were never made.
I know this is a hard time for everyone, but as a 17-year-old girl who has been planning my 18th birthday, my first prom, and my graduation—it sucks for all of those things to be taken away. It put a bit of a strain on my relationship with God because these were things I had been looking forward to since before I even started high school. This was supposed to be my year. I’ve watched all the previous seniors enjoy the fruit of their hard work. It was supposed to be my turn to celebrate my own accomplishments with my own family and friends.
Now, the Class of 2020 might not get any of that. The seniors who were relying on track scholarships to get them through college might not be able to secure them. Choir and band kids will no longer get to celebrate their final concert this spring. It is looking very possible that the seniors of 2020 might not even be allowed to walk or have a graduation ceremony. So, while we are walking through this muddy water, how do we trust that we can rely on God?
“ Worshipping God is a struggle at times… ‘Father, not my will, but your will be done.’ ”
I know that God has an amazing plan for my life and that I should be able to trust him through anything. Saying that simple sentence is the easy part, but believing it is where things get difficult. Worshipping God is a struggle at times. A good Bible verse that I’ve been trying to keep in mind during all of this is Luke 22:42, which reads, “Father, not my will, but your will be done.”
This verse is something I think God has placed on my heart recently to remind me that sometimes he has a plan greater than I could expect. I think it’s a good reminder that sometimes my idea of the “right way” is not the way God has things planned. It is better to trust that things will work out if I hand my worries and struggles over to him, instead of trying to fix them on my own. I firmly believe that God has a plan for everyone and if that means my senior year doesn’t go as originally planned, then I’ll have to learn to be okay with that.
This doesn’t have to ruin my year if I don’t let it. This is still my senior year, and I can still celebrate my accomplishments; I will just have to do it differently. If we remember to rely on God and one another during this time, then we will all get through it together. After all, fellow seniors, we will always be the class of 2020.
Emma is my distant cousin. I have never met her, but her grandmother posted this video of Emma and her dad singing on Facebook. What she said before they sang, gave me the ideas of having her write for my blog and to share that video, both of which are so appropriate in these times. Please listen!