By Teal Sherer: For Complete Post, Click Here…
At 6:45 p.m., on a warm spring evening, Andrea Dalzell pushes into the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York City. COVID-19 cases are surging. Dalzell, a registered nurse, drops off snacks to share in the staff lounge, puts on protective gear, and huddles up with her coworkers around a white dry erase board. For the next 12-plus hours, Dalzell, who typically has six to eight patients, and up to 13 when the floor is short-staffed, administers medication, tends to wounds, gives baths and suctions the airways of those on vents. She holds patients’ hands when they need comforting, FaceTimes with their family members and responds to codes. The stakes are high and the work is emotionally taxing, but Dalzell is exactly where she wants to be — at the bedside caring for patients.
At 33, Dalzell is the only registered nurse she knows of in New York City who uses a wheelchair, and she is forging a path for people with disabilities in healthcare. “Andrea is a pioneer,” says Karen McCulloh, a nurse with multiple disabilities who co-founded the National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities in 2003. “Nursing with a disability is still not completely accepted.”
Despite repeatedly having her abilities questioned through school and being repeatedly denied acute care nursing jobs, Dalzell answered Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plea for assistance as COVID-19 cases overwhelmed New York City hospitals. “I just wanted to help,” she says. Dalzell’s knowledge of ventilators, gained from having friends who use them, proved valuable, and her co-workers and superiors took notice.