Sandy made landfall just two days after the end of our NYSNA convention last year. Our new board was seated on Friday and on Monday we faced a challenge unprecedented in our union’s history.
Hundreds of nurses, including me and many of my colleagues at Staten Island University Hospital, were mandated to stay at our facilities. Some of us for days. We didn’t know what we’d be going home to. Some of us went home to find our houses destroyed or unlivable. Worse, some lost neighbors and loved ones.
Nurses at Bellevue and Coney Island fearlessly evacuated patients in harms’ way, saving countless lives with their bravery. On Roosevelt Island, Coler was left with no power, heat, or hot water. Nurses at Coler made heroic efforts to care for patients under extreme conditions, evacuating some to Goldwater.
NYSNA nurses throughout the affected areas showed courage and strength.
The day after the hurricane, a friend called me. I still hadn’t left the hospital. She told me about her neighbor who was outside in the cold with no jacket, picking through what remained of her belongings. “Where’s your coat?” she asked. And the neighbor pointed to the pile of debris.
Meeting Urgent Needs
That pushed me over the edge. I knew we had to do something. But this was not in our NYSNA playbook. We had never responded to disasters together as an organization in the past.
Despite personal hardships, NYSNA nurses and staff went the extra mile and did everything possible to help those in need. More than 500 NYSNA members volunteered in affected areas from the Jersey Shore, to Long Island, to Manhattan’s East Side, providing vital medical and support services. We coordinated volunteers in the Rockaways and in Staten Island.
We saw large gaps in the emergency response, especially in meeting the healthcare needs of those affected by the hurricane and its aftermath. We stepped in to fill those needs and turned our NYSNA RV into a mobile medical station.
We also made sure that our fellow nurses were getting support. More than 1,000 NYSNA members live in the worst hit areas. We called every single one of them in the days following the storm to assess their needs.
We raised more than $120,000 in relief funds for nurses hurt by the storm – and we wrote more than 250 checks to NYSNA members to help cover the costs of lost homes and damaged property.
Nursing is about doing what needs to be done. NYSNA members united like never before to provide the very best possible care for our patients.
That spirit embodies what this organization is trying to become. It required going the extra mile and facing things that were pretty scary. But we knew we had to step in. Our unity and work in the Sandy crisis set the stage for the transformation in our organization over the past year.
Fighting For Change
We’ve become stronger and more active in fights to protect our patients – whether it’s responding to disaster or building long-term relationships to fight for change in our communities.
We’re still actively working to bring back the communities that Sandy devastated – and, as a union, we keep building and getting stronger.