‘Someone Laughed For The First Time In What Felt Like Ages’: Finding Moments Of Joy At A Downtown Hospital

Health-care workers are on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19, as they battle to heal patients and stay safe and healthy themselves. Jasmine A. Torres (pictured above), a clinical coordinator at the respiratory department at NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital (170 William Street), said the last few weeks have been “exhausting.” She and her team have been working nearly 20-hour shifts to support respiratory therapists and administer breathing equipment and supplies, all of which are in dire need to fight the virus. Still, she said, she’s been inspired watching her colleagues come together to save lives. 

“I feel like we are in a battlefield, and it has been devastating to bear witness to so much suffering all at once and in such a short period of time,” Torres told the Downtown Alliance, “but NewYork-Presbyterian has truly risen to the occasion. Our teamwork has been palpable.”

In 3C, the critical care unit at NewYork-Presbyterian, registered nurse Matthew Hall said his job has transitioned from being ICU patients’ primary caregiver to coordinating with health-care staff redeployed from other hospitals and departments. The change is an “immense challenge,” according to Hall (pictured below left, across from emergency-medicine specialist Brenna Farmer, M.D.). 

In the face of the surge, our nurses have been juggling the roles of educator, coordinator and clinician,” Hall continued. “Remarkably, last week I felt like we were arriving at some kind of acclimation — it’s a testament to the hospital as a whole and makes me deeply grateful for our team.”

The work at the hospital is difficult, draining and frightening. Hall likened it to “standing on a beach, watching an approaching tidal wave gain speed and height and immeasurable power.” But recently a small moment of levity seemed like a milestone break among the stress. “Someone laughed about something — for the first time in what felt like ages,” Hall recalled. “It was so remarkable I texted my boss immediately.”

The moment changed the mood so intensely, it gave the staff the strength to keep pushing through the wave, even though he can’t even remember the joke. “Somebody said something stupid and somebody laughed,” he said. “I can’t even remember what it was about!”

To support the workers at NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, you can learn more about donating supplies here or make a monetary donation here.