KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After spending last spring in New York City – at a time when it was one of the nation's hardest-hit areas of the COVID-19 pandemic – Heather Smith felt called to do even more.
Smith, a traveling nurse from Olathe, first spoke with 41 Action News last April while in New York.
"It was bad," she said. "We had nurses that had 20 patients that they were taking care of on a wing in the hospital and that's insanity."
She was supposed to stay 21 days but ended up living there for two months.
"I didn't feel like I was done. I needed to stay and I had things to do," Smith said.
The traveling nurse also had a bond with a COVID-19 positive patient. She said she knew her time in the city would be complete when he gets to go home. Luckily, this patient recovered and returned home. Smith has stayed in touch with him and saw him before she herself came home. The two keep in touch every few weeks.
After seeing what the virus can do, she felt a calling to go to other states like Florida and Texas. Texas, where she went twice, was the worst, according to Smith.
"There [were] no ventilators, and oxygen was an issue in the hospital," she said. "There were no supplies and patients were just sick everywhere."
And as she took care of patients all over the country, there was one consistent commonality.
"Everybody that I have taken care of that was truly sick from this – every single one of them – said they did not believe it was this bad," Smith said. "Every one of them."
And while Smith currently is taking some time off, she said that at one point, she thought about leaving the industry.
But, she just can't do it because her heart belongs to helping people as a nurse.
"Nursing is where I am supposed to be," she said. "I am supposed to make that impact in people's lives and likewise, they make an impact on mine. So, I am going to stick with nursing. Just might change the avenue, there are a lot of options."