SHARON – When Jamie Perrine drove through the streets of Boston last month, it seemed to her like a “ghost town.”
“When people were talking about driving to work, nowadays you can get there faster because there’s no one out,” Jamie said. “There weren’t a lot of people out and about.”
While local health-care workers have been on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 patients, Perrine, a surgical nurse at Sharon Regional Medical Center, volunteered for service in one of the pandemic’s domestic hot spots.
From April 11 to May 10, Perrine left her husband, Lucas, their three young children and her regular job to help treat patients at two hospitals near Boston, which had one of the largest percentage of COVID-19 cases in the country.
Perrine downplayed her own service and deflected the credit.
“I was just terrified that I was leaving my family for a whole month and going out on my own,” Perrine said. “I just went and worked. My husband is the real MVP.”
Jamie and Lucas Perrine live in Neshannock Township, Lawrence County, and are in the process of moving to Sharpsville. The couple has a son, Easton, 4, and twins, Maxwell and Theodore, who are 20 months.
Lucas was furloughed from his job and both sets of grandparents helped her husband with the children, Jamie said.
The month-long service began with a letter from the Steward Medical Group, parent company of Sharon Regional Medical Center, requesting nurses to take care of COVID-19 patients in Steward hospitals in the Boston area.
Jamie, a nurse in the surgical department at Sharon Regional, did not hesitate.
She spent the month caring for COVID patients in New England Sinai Hospital in Stoughton, Mass., and in Carney Hospital, in Dorchester, Mass., south of Boston. She visited the city once, as she was provided with a letter certifying that she was an essential worker.
“You think of it (Boston) as a big city and there was barely anyone out,” Jamie said.
New England Sinai Hospital converted two wings to COVID-19 floors. One wing had ventilated patients and the other had patients who did not need ventilators. They were also working on opening up another floor to take care of pandemic patients.
Carney Hospital was occupied by only COVID-19 patients.
“I didn’t really think about being scared. I knew I had the personal protective equipment I needed,” Jamie said. “I just thought about them being overwhelmed and needing help.”
Even before Steward sent out its request for volunteers, Jamie said she was already looking for a way she could help out in the pandemic.
“I’m a nurse so this is what I kind of need to be doing,” Jamie said. “All my other nursing co-workers were just throwing themselves in the middle of danger and I felt like I needed to be out there helping them.”
Steward Medical Group paid for Jamie’s plane tickets, hotel lodging, a rental car and food.
Jamie worked 16-hour shifts, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., but said she never left on time.
“We were working on floor nursing, taking care of patients, managing their meds, doing assessments and meeting their needs,” Jamie said.
The hardest part for the patients was that there were no visitors allowed in the hospital.
“I noticed they were struggling a little more,” Jamie said about her COVID-19 patients. “Not wanting to get out of bed or eat. They were missing their families.”
The Steward Medical Group bought iPads and hooked them to a rolling stand for patients to contact their families by FaceTime.
And the patients weren’t the only ones affected by the absence of loved ones.
Jamie, who knew no one in the area, said she missed her co-workers. But most of all, she missed her family.
“My kids were constantly asking for me at first,” Jamie said. “I had a conversation with my oldest before I left and told him mommy was going to be gone for a while to help people with the big sickness.”
She and her son made a paper chain with as many links in it as days she was going to be gone. He was allowed to rip off a link each day.
“My husband just kept everything together,” she said. “It worked out perfectly that he got furloughed. It was perfect timing.”
Lucas works in an orthopedic office for a durable medical equipment company.
A couple of weeks after returning home, Jamie said she still doesn’t know if she has fully processed the experience from her time in the Boston area.
“It’s nice to be home,” Jamie said. “It’s nice to know that area, to be with my family and to be with my department. It’s nice to be back around friends.
“I love the people I work with.”