Tucson nurse shares her experience battling COVID-19 in New Jersey

Heroes and Helpers: Tucson nurse battles COVID-19 in New Jersey

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Mikki Sullivan has seen more death in the last two months than in her 22 years of nursing. Sullivan, a Tucson nurse working at the Hackensack Meridian JFK Medical Center in New Jersey, has been caring for COVID-19 patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit since April 13.

“I can’t tell you the times I’ve cried because it’s been so hard,” she said.

New Jersey has nearly 160,000 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 11,401 lab-confirmed deaths, according to state data. Each one of those numbers represents faces, names and lives to Sullivan, some of which she has taken care of.

COVID-19 is a lonely disease, Sullivan said. Patients are isolated and not allowed to see family members or even spend much time with medical staff.

“It’s heartbreaking to watch these patients die alone,” Sullivan said with tears in her eyes.

During her time in New Jersey, Sullivan grew close to a patient she called Angel because of a tattoo. Soon, Angel became one of the thousands of people in New Jersey who died from COVID-19. Her story is one of many Sullivan can tell.

But, as masks rub her nose raw and her time in New Jersey winds down, it has started to take a toll.

“After seeing what we saw, I’m terrified of COVID. People just don’t get it,” she said. “They really just don’t get what it is.”

Sullivan will be back in Tucson, where she lives and works at Banner University Medical Center South, in early June. As Arizona reopens, she has simple warnings.

“There needs to be social distancing, there needs to be masks,” she said. “This is not a political issue, this is about human lives.”

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