This Adirondack resident is as tough as his upstate home’s bedrock granite.
Chris Swiesz is among the nurses from Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh near the Canadian border who have been flocking to the city to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Swiesz, 45, previously only made forays to the city to see the Yankees play or catch a Broadway show. Now, he has been toiling in the emergency room at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital in Inwood, Manhattan, since mid-April.
“I asked my bosses at Chaplain if I can come down to the city to help out. I’m glad to be here,” Swiescz told The Post. “The city was a huge hot spot.”
He said it was clear when he arrived that COVID-19 had taken a heavy toll on the hospital’s staffers.
“A lot of the nurses had gone out sick. They were on 14-day quarantines. Not only are you dealing with all these patients, but your hospital staff was depleted,” Swiesz said of the situation.
He said the hospital’s emergency department has 30 beds, but the ER was overflowing with more than double the patients during the COVID peak.
“You could really tell they were under the gun. They were definitely fighting a battle,” Swiesz said.
Amid all that, Presbyterian took another hit when ER doctor Lorna Breen committed suicide. Her funeral service was live-streamed at the hospital.
“It was a real somber movement,” he said.
Swiesz, who has worked at Chaplain since 2001, including 18 years as ER nurse, said the COVID-19 crisis enveloping the city providing him a personal challenge of “coming out of my comfort zone in the north country.”
“You know the saying. `If you make it here, you can make it anywhere.’ I wanted to see if I can do it in the big city,” he said.
Swiesz wanted to see if he could handle the volume and intensity of working in a big city hospital ER and “getting used to the sickness of the patients.”
But while the worst appears to be over, there are still many sick COVID patients being admitted to the ER, he said.
“They’re coming in with breathing problems. Their oxygen levels are low. They’re pale. We’re seeing patients coming from the nursing homes,” he said. “It’s still in the community. It’s still out there.”
He said it helps that the staff and management at Presbyterian have embraced him like family as part of the larger cause to help treat patients.
“It’s really been great. The staff welcomed me with open arms. They’re just wonderful people,” Swiesz said.
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