Rachel Hartley was on a mission in April when she docked in Brooklyn with her husband Taylor -- to help save as many lives as she could while NYC was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, losing hundreds of lives each day.
"That was in the middle of the pandemic. Everything in NYC was peaking when we first got here and things were insane, especially in the hospital. It was chaotic," said Hartley.
The registered nurse had decided to sail to New York, the epicenter of the crisis, from her home in Virginia, more than 250 miles away. She went to work as a nurse at NYU Langone Brooklyn Hospital. What she saw after she got to the city still gives her nightmares.
"Walking into my first day at the hospital, seeing three big tractor trailers parked outside of the main entrance and understanding that those were makeshift morgues," Hartley said of the startling discovery.
Now Hartley, a critical care nursing graduate from Cedarville University in Ohio, says she will forever be attached to New Yorkers thanks to their courage and strength. However, much it will be due to those that didn’t make it.
"The amount of patients that we had go to care for, and the majority of them were not making it. I never got to see COVID patients that actually turned the corner and got better" Hartley said.
After nine weeks docked at the Brooklyn Marina, her boat “Turning Points” will sail Thursday to New Haven, Connecticut, where Hartley will continue to be active on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19.
"I’m taking another COVID-ICU contract, very similar to what I did here in NYC, at Yale New Haven Hospital," Hartley said. "They're unfortunately having a COVID surge there."
Her husband Taylor said that they had been asked a few times if they view her as a hero. "I suppose we do, but her heart is more to be a servant and that speaks to who she is," he said.
For Hartley, however, the real heroes are the colleagues she’s leaving behind in New York.
"They are the true warriors, and I really want to emphasize that. I cam and I helped and now I'm leaving, but they are going to be here through the thick and thin," she said.