EL PASO, Texas -- Several El Paso nurses have taken their skills to the hotbed for the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States.
Heath Bailey is one of them.
The pediatric cardiac nurse from El Paso Children's Hospital has been in New York City for a month.
"I signed up to be a nurse for this specific reason: to help people," Bailey said. "I'm not going to shy away from that even in a time like this."
That's what Bailey, 31, told his wife and two daughters four weeks ago when he felt the call of his profession from nearly 2,200 miles away in the Big Apple.
"I just felt like the nurses over there were working tirelessly and getting tired and overwhelmed, and I just wanted to go help and make a difference," Bailey said during a video chat from New York City this week.
Bailey has been a nurse for over two years, graduating from Texas Tech University Health Sciences of El Paso. Now, he's pulling 60-hour work weeks during a pandemic.
"It can be frightening and overwhelming at times… just caring for the patients, making sure they feel like they're not alone, feeling like they're loved, and providing the best care possible as if they are one of your family members," he said.
Bailey said his wife of 10 years, Vanessa, supported his decision. She remained in El Paso, caring for their 5- and 14-year-old daughters. He knows they're worried -- especially his youngest.
"She just asks me, 'Daddy, are you staying safe?'" Bailey said as he smiled. "She knows I'm here helping, so she's like, 'I'm super proud of you.'"
He's expecting to be in New York until June and is acclimating to his new temporary situation.
He's making the most of it, saying he's at least getting to enjoy New York-style pizza and pasta that's being donated by restaurants to the hospital workers practically on a daily basis.
"I've been telling everybody I'm from Texas and they call me 'Texas' or 'Cowboy,'" he said, laughing. He added, "We're working together the best we can to get things done and do the best we can with what we know."
What Bailey does know, he says, is what El Pasoans should be doing to protect themselves and others from the illness he is watching devastate patients firsthand.
"It's a simple thing to do to put on a mask," Bailey said. "Wear it to protect yourself. Wear it to protect your loved ones, and your community and the city."