A nurse manager who helps care for transplant patients at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville answered the military’s call for health care help in New York.
Cmdr. Lynn Houston, a Jacksonville native and preoperative nurse in the Navy Reserve, applied for a spot aboard the USNS Comfort, which is docked in New York City in an effort to relieve the city’s hospitals amid the coronavirus pandemic. She was selected to help in the hospital ship’s operating room and had three days to pack up.
“Usually, for the military, we’re picking up our soldiers and sailors on the battlefields. We’re not on the frontline. But now we are on the frontline of support,” said Houston, who has been nursing for 30 years.
The Mandarin wife and mother of two adult children said she FaceTimes with her family every night and assures them she’s being careful. She said she’s not worried about her health while treating patients who may be infected with COVID-19.
“We have masks on top of masks,” she said.
Houston said the thank you messages that the crew receives keeps them motivated even more -- like the time when one neighborhood sent about 14 boxes full of treats.
“Which were wonderful, but it was the cards and the letters from the kids that were really -- that keeps us going,” Houston said. “The messages on Facebook -- they think we’re heroes, but we’re just doing our job.”
Houston is not the only home town hero. There are many people from the Jacksonville area aboard the ship, in neighborhood hospitals in the city and in the Javits Center, the convention center that was transformed into a hospital.
Houston’s last true deployment was in 2003. Her children were little, and others volunteered to go to Iraq and Afghanistan. She said now that her children are 22 and 27 years old, she hopes by volunteering to help in New York City, someone else was able to stay home with their young children.
The Comfort is providing treatment to trauma, emergency and urgent care patients as part of the effort to help out New York City’s health care system.
The hospital ship was activated in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in over 10,000 deaths and 200,000 cases in New York.