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7’s Hero: Caldwell nurse goes to New York City to help critical COVID-19 patients

Amber Craig said she felt called to go to New York to help care for COVID-19 patients but nothing could have prepared her for just how difficult it was.

THE BRONX, N.Y. — Amber Craig is an emergency room nurse at West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell. She loves her job, and she prides herself on caring for her patients. 

When COVID-19 hit, the Middleton wife and mother watched carefully as news about the deadly virus developed. She saw how hard New York City was being hit, and she decided she had to go. 

“The decision to travel to New York to work in the hospital fighting COVID was one that we made as a family,” Craig said. “I had talked a lot to my husband and kids about wanting to go onto the front lines and help out in communities where the nursing staff was getting hit really hard. I knew it was important to me in my heart to go help.”

On April 1, she left Idaho for New York City, not sure of what was to come. When she arrived for her first shift at a hospital in The Bronx. She told KTVB that she wasn't prepared for what was to come. We asked her to record a video diary for us, to share what the experience was really like.

“The nurses here are often taking ten to twelve patients at a time,” Craig explained. “It was absolutely daunting that I had this kind of a patient load, this many people that I have to care for and make sure their medications are right, that they are still breathing and that their ventilator settings are right.”

Craig said the work was rewarding but absolutely exhausting. She also revealed seeing so much death was devastating.

“This was a pretty eye-opening experience for me, and that's definitely where the emotional turmoil kicked in,” Craig recalled. “I'm here to tell you that regardless of where you think it came from, it's a very real virus. I know that I'll certainly never be the same.”

One thing that happened that Craig wasn’t expecting - she was very touched by the interactions she had with the people she met on the streets of New York City.

Credit: Amber Craig
Middleton nurse Amber Craig worked in New York for over two months, caring for critical COVID-19 patients. She says it's an experience she will never forget.

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“I was often greeted on the streets when I was in my scrubs, and those moments were pretty powerful,” said Craig. “The people that were walking the streets few and far between, and all with masks on, would say thank you. Thank you for helping us. Thank you for taking care of our families, things like we pray for you every morning. We pray for your safety. It was pretty incredible to hear, especially from a community that I expected to be so disconnected.”

With things opening back up in Idaho, Craig has some advice for Idahoans. She said people in the Gem State have been fortunate to see a low number of confirmed cases here, but need to make sure we keep it that way.

“Wash your hands, take care of yourself and others, I urge you to not go out in public if you are sick, and again, just wash your hands,” she said.

After over two months, Craig was so excited to come back home to the community she loves. She said her co-workers and loved ones here in Idaho continuously kept in touch with her, but it’s not the same as being together.

“I couldn't be more excited to come home to my comfort zone, and come back to my safe space,” she said. “I'm so very grateful for all the support that I have received from everybody back home. Friends and family that have sent some goodie boxes to keep me going, little pick me up text messages, and team members that have reached out to make sure that I'm safe.”

In the first week of June, this dedicated nurse finished her contract in New York and was finally welcomed home by her family at the Boise Airport. It was an emotional reunion with a lot of happy tears. She was overjoyed to see her husband and two teenagers. Craig said she couldn’t have done it without them, and their constant support.

“I'm feeling very blessed to have a husband and kids who are so supportive of my dream to become a better nurse,” Craig told us.

Credit: Amber Craig
Amber Craig's husband and two children welcomed her home at the Boise Airport after she spent over two months caring for COVID-19 patients in New York.

Craig took some time to recharge, but she’s looking forward to getting back to work with her team this week at West Valley Medical Center. She said she will bring all the important lessons she learned with her, to be an even better nurse for her patients. 

“Being an ER nurse is something that is a part of me, and always will be.”

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Watch more '7's Hero'

See all of the heartwarming segments in our YouTube playlist here: