Says Joe Maddon: “The volunteers are the unsung heroes. Without them, none of our efforts occur.” Every month, the Respect 90 Foundation will salute a distinguished volunteer from the communities of Tampa, FL, Chicago, IL, Mesa, AZ, Southern California, or Joe’s Hometown of Hazleton, PA. Respect 90 will present a $1,000 grant to that volunteer’s charity. Should you have someone who is deserving, please let us know.
Jamie Koshko | American Nurses on a Mission
The way Jamie Koshko looks at it, it’s payback time for a debt that was accrued last summer when COVID-19 ravaged the country.
The Clearwater, FL travel nurse explains: “Last year we were all working in different states across the country in the hospitals that were hit the hardest with the Covid pandemic. Many of my colleagues were working side by side with people from India who came to help us. Now it’s our turn to lend a hand to our medical brothers and sisters in other countries across the world.
This month, Jamie and 41 other volunteering nurses are self-funding a month-long mission to treat COVID patients in India, a country experiencing the world’s worst outbreak, with new cases surging past 400,000 per day breaking the record for the highest single-day figure.
The nurses are literally running toward the fire, as the landscape in cities like New Delhi is dominated by mass cremations, last rite rituals surrounded by dozens of other burning funeral pyres. According to CNN, “Hospitals have run out of basic medical supplies, with many patients dying due to oxygen shortages. Family members are driving from clinic to clinic, frantically searching for open ICU beds for their loved ones.”
What’s almost as amazing as the mission itself is the rapid pace that it came together and the number of nurse volunteers who signed on. Chelsea Walsh, who brought the idea to the group in early May was amazed. “I told them, it was going to be dangerous, and I couldn’t guarantee their safety,” she says. “I thought I would get two people.
“None of us are expecting anything out of this except knowing we are helping people. It’s truly a selfless act by everyone involved… 100% voluntary.”
Within a month, the group has moved with amazing energy putting together a 501(c)3 – American Nurses on a Mission, purchasing supplies and medicines, booking flights, searching for vaccines and successfully making arrangements with the Indian government and local non- profits to gain access as guests of India who will provide them housing, food and security for 30 days.
“Everything is evolving quickly,” admits Chelsea. “We’re kinda flying by the seat of our pants and it’s working!”
The plan is working well enough that the group has heard from government officials from neighboring Nepal looking for similar help in their fight with COVID. A smaller group of Chelsea’s nurses may be deployed there.
For many of the nurses it will be their first trip to India. “We have discussed a lot about what to expect,” says Jamie. “It’s monsoon season, so flooding and mosquito-borne diseases are concerns. We’ve come together as a group to educate ourselves on the cultural differences of the country and discussed how the health system may differ from that of the United States.”
Plus, the nurses will mostly likely be working in makeshift hospitals in the streets as hospitals struggle to keep up. “It’s going to be very different circumstances than what we are used to; it’s going to be tough,” says Jamie. “Due to the large number of cremations and different strains of Covid we will have to wear the respirator masks most of the time.”
The good news? Travel nurses are as well-equipped as anyone to handle new surroundings. Often, they are working in a hospital that is short-staffed and new to them. “We aren’t really trained for that hospital,” says Jamie. “On the first day of an assignment I show up to the hospital and it’s like, ‘Nice to meet you, this the floor you will be working on, here’s the supply closet, and here’s your assignment.’ You kinda get thrown into the system. You learn quickly to talk to the physicians and find the resources you need to do your job.”
It’s a life that seems to suit her nature. Not long after they were married, she and her husband, Jeffrey, sold their Clearwater, FL home and spent four years traveling. They’ve been to every state except Hawaii and nicknamed themselves the “Star Spangled Campers.”
“It was before COVID. I would take a nursing assignment in Montana and we would camp a month or so and travel the California coast through the dessert into Arizona,” she says “Then I would take another contract. We drove through Alaska, to the Arctic circle and over to Maine. We just camped around the country. We were able to experience travel nursing at its best.”
This upcoming trip will be different for another reason as well. Jamie and Jeffrey are parents to a 15-month-old son, Elliott. She has no reservations about leaving the toddler. “I have a great support system with my family. My husband is absolutely amazing and he’s taken on his father role like a pro. My mom and dad are also a great support. They understand the importance of this mission.”
Jamie has thrown herself into it. “She has been amazing,” says Chelsea. “She’s been an integral player in how far we have come. Everything from working on logos, T shirts and just getting the word out.”
Rick Vaughn | Executive Director, Respect 90 Foundation