As if fighting the coronavirus on the frontline wasn't already a once-in-a-lifetime feat, a New York healthcare worker on Wednesday finished a 3,500-mile bike ride on the beach in Staten Island.
The journey took Theresa Mellas over a month but it was nothing compared to her 8-week stretch of volunteering as a physician's assistant in the COVID-19 unit of a hospital in the Bronx. The medical professional from Buffalo says she answered the call because it was the right thing to do.
In what was the epicenter of the nation's coronavirus outbreak, most of Mellas' patients were on ventilators. When she finished her time as a volunteer, she was exhausted but then she had an idea.
"I needed my own mental decompression and I really impetuously just bought a ticket, a one-way ticket to Portland, Oregon," Mellas recalled. "I didn't even have a bike. I bought this bike off of Craigslist the day I landed and I started riding East the very next day."
Mellas' sister had her concerns, but she wasn't surprised that it's something her sister would do. With no clear path, Mellas said she just wanted to explore a country that's in unprecedented times.
From experiencing wild summer storms along the highway to the kindness of strangers who let her sleep in their cornfields, Mellas documented the whole journey with her camera. After witnessing so much pain in the hospital, she was grateful she was able to discover what she was looking for when she started riding.
"I thanked God every day, prayed for everyone in the hospital that wasn’t able to do that," she said.
When she finally finished her coast-to-coast trip, Mellas took her bike into the ocean with family members cheering her on.
"This is a difficult time but we are a strong country and we're all in this together."