A trio of San Luis Obispo nurses is now working in the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, treating countless patients who are extremely sick from the virus in New York City hospitals.
The recorded number of coronavirus infections on the Central Coast remains below 500 but in New York City, more than 138,000 people have been infected with close to 14,000 deaths as of Wednesday.
The need for nurses in the Big Apple prompted the three women to leave friends and family behind in San Luis Obispo to answer the call for help on the East Coast.
"There are hallways, you just walk by bodies and bodies and bodies of intubated people, hundreds of people that will likely die," Elissa Molfino, a French Hospital nurse stationed at a Queens hospital, said.
That nightmare is a reality for Molfino, who arrived in NYC about 10 days ago
"They've converted every spare area to patient care including cafeterias, ORs, hallways," Molfino said.
The devastating toll of the virus is evident at every turn and the level of care demanded of nurses means they rarely have a moment to take for themselves.
"You barely have time to go to the bathroom or eat, so you really don't have time to be emotional," Molfino said.
It's a feeling few can understand. But at a hospital in NYC's Bronx neighborhood, a pair of fellow San Luis Obispo nurses can relate.
"It is like barely controlled chaos here," Devon Everson, a San Luis Obispo nurse working in a Bronx hospital, said.
Everson and her colleague, Jessi Norris, left their post at French Hospital in SLO to help where it's needed most.
"It's so busy that I can't imagine if I wasn't here," Norris said. "If just one person wasn't here, how much crazier it would be."
Back at home, young children wait for their mothers, their heroes, to return.
"My kids, Gwen and Gabe, are such cheerleaders," Molfino said.
Molfino's friend and roommate, Carly, was recently laid off due to the coronavirus impact on the local economy, so she is home schooling Molfino's children and caring for them while she's away.
Everson's husband is taking care of their children but being apart is difficult.
"I have four littles at home, with the oldest being 6," Everson said. "That's probably been the toughest part."
Far from home, thrust into turmoil, the work may seem impossible. But with each survivor, the nurses feel a sense of hope.
"Every time a patient is discharged from the hospital, they play overhead Don't Stop Believing," Molfino said. "So you know somewhere, someone is getting better, which is very moving for me."
For Norris, this experience is humbling.
"Nursing is so important for people's lives," Norris said.
Everson and Norris are into their second week of 21 straight days of work. Elissa is also in her second week of a month-long stint.
The women said they want to thank their partners, their children, colleagues, and friends for their support.