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Local woman helps battle pandemic in New York

Britney Cryer has been working in the healthcare field since she was 19 years old. Having worked in a variety of areas and specialties, Cryer said she decided to help fight the coronavirus by putting her knowledge to use in the Big Apple.  

When things began to slow down at the Community Urgent Care of Hartselle, where Cryer works as a nurse practitioner, she decided to take a leap of faith to make a difference. Cryer said when she heard of the need in New York City, she knew she could help and wanted to be a good example to her children.  

“I just thought, I am young and healthy, and I knew I was able to help, so I just thought it was a good opportunity,” Cryer said. “I like working in an intense environment, and I like learning new things. Also, I have two small children, and my little girl is 5, and she has an understanding of what is going on. I thought it would be a good example for her, and I don’t know another time I would get an opportunity like this.” 

Cryer sent her credentials to be able to help and found out she was needed on a Monday. Less than 48 hours later, she had booked a flight and was on her way to serve on the front lines of the pandemic, arriving in NYC April 1.  

Once there, Cryer said she and others who had traveled to help were assigned to various areas throughout the city. She said initially the need was overwhelming, but it gradually began to subside. 

“I have been at Coney Island in Brooklyn, and it’s actually a tent that is just for the COVID-19 patients,” she explained. “Whenever I first got here, it was pretty bad. Once we got here and started knowing where we needed to be placed, it slowly started to die down. They ended up closing the tent due to the improvement of the cases.” 

Working 12-hour shifts day after day, Cryer said she would begin each shift by suiting up in equipment, donning a full body suit, gown, pants, shoe cover, hair cover, mask and goggles. Cryer said despite a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment, the workers were fortunate to have all they needed to protect themselves. 

She and fellow workers continued to make adjustments to their plans as more was learned about the virus.  

“This is different just because there is so much unknown about it. It is such a new virus,” she said. “The standard of care and what you’re expected to do has changed every day. I have worked with these amazing doctors in New York, and they are still learning about it, and it’s just been different for everyone.  

It’s a whole new thing that no one knows about, yet it is killing thousands of people,” Cryer said.  

After the long hours caring for her patients, Cryer would take the long commute back to where she was staying and Facetime her children and family back home. Cryer said her young daughter has been her champion through it all.  

“She knows there is a virus … She knows I am trying to help, and she understands that the best she can,” Cryer said. “She has been awesome through it. She will ask what I did at work that day, and she has been good through it all.” 

Despite the sacrifice of temporarily leaving her children to battle an unknown virus, Cryer said she doesn’t feel like a hero. She said she is simply doing what she spent all those years training to do.  

“I think I can speak for anyone in healthcare: You don’t go into it expecting to be praised or appreciated. You go into it because you want to help somebody,” Cryer said. We’ve definitely been pretty appreciated during all this. I don’t think that’s what we expected; we were just going to do what we were trained to do.” 

Cryer said throughout the entire ordeal, the city and even the nation have rallied to help healthcare workers feel appreciated for the long hours.  

“I appreciate things a little different than before, like the little things,” she said. It’s been pretty neat to see everyone in healthcare come together. Whenever we get to the hospital, the fire department is there, and they just cheer for us, and then every day at 7, everybody around opens the windows and chants for healthcare.  

It’s been an experience I will never forget. It’s a hard decision to leave my family and my children, but it’s been pretty neat to hear the 7 o’clock cheers. It’ll give you chills.”