Q&A with CoxHealth Nurse Cheryl Longabaugh Webb

Hear from Cheryl Longabaugh Webb, registered nurse at CoxHealth, who spent 21 days in New York City helping care for COVID-19 patients.

By Jamie Thomas

Jul 2020

Cheryl Webb
Courtesy Cheryl Longabaugh WebbCheryl Longabaugh Webb went to NYC when COVID-19 broke out to help at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center.

417 Magazine: What was it like when you arrived in New York City?
Cheryl Longabaugh Webb: The airports were pretty empty, the flights in and out of Springfield were very empty. We flew into LaGuardia—the airport there was empty—and then our hotel was down in Times Square. We got an Uber from the airport to Times Square, and it was just kind of eerie, you know? You’ve seen pictures of Times Square, and it’s always so packed, but there was nobody anywhere.

417: What did your family think when you decided to go?
CLW: They were all very supportive from the beginning. I have three kids, one’s at Missouri State University, the other two have already graduated, and they’ve all been on their own mission-type trips. They would FaceTime me all the time when I was there to try and help get some normalcy in my life at night. My husband is a teacher, so he’s been home for a couple of months. Once I signed up, I had to fly out within 24 hours, and he was great about running and getting things to help me pack.

417: What was your daily routine?
CLW: By the time we got back to the hotel at night, it would be about 8:30 or 8:45 at night, and we left in the morning at 6:45 a.m., so it was a long day. Once you got back to the hotel, they had what was called a dirty lane, and we had to just get in the dirty lane and go straight to our rooms and shower. By the time we showered and got cleaned up, it was about nine in the evening. The first five days were horrible, just losing patients and stuff. I would write in a journal about what I’d seen and my feelings, then my family would FaceTime me. I’d gone with all these plans, like, “I’m going to watch this or that Netflix show,” and I hardly watched anything. I didn’t do anything. I showered, wrote in that journal, and then I usually just went to sleep.

417: Had you kept a journal before?
CLW: Not at all. I’ve never been good about that. I just needed to be writing down some of this because by the end, you kind of forget how bad it was. I’ve been a nurse for 29 years, and this is nothing that I’ve ever experienced. I felt like a new nurse. I was trying to write down some of those feelings, so I could look back on it at the end and see how far I’d come.

417: Would you go back?
CLW: I would absolutely go back in a heartbeat. I know it’s so hard to explain, but I fell in love with the people and the patients. It was just like a family, and we all had a hard time. We had a little text chat group, and when we got home it was really hard the first three or four days. You feel so odd coming home. And guilty—you kind of still want to be there. It was really tough adjusting.

417: Are you quarantined at home?
CLW: We have a camper that we bought once I found out I was going, I’m actually in the camper in our driveway.

417: Will you ever read the journal?
CLW: I will definitely revisit it. I haven’t gone back and read it yet, but I will. I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to forget my experience in those first few days. I’m kind of proud that, at this stage of my life, I could step into something that was so difficult. Being from a small town and going to New York City and working in Brooklyn, I never thought I would do anything like that.

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