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Knoxville native cares for the sickest coronavirus patients to save lives in New York City

Courtney hasn’t been home to hug her family or her fiancé in months. She said COVID-19 has been all consuming, confining and eye opening.

The number of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. is on a steady decline even in the epicenter of New York City.

Still, an army of healthcare workers, including a Knoxville native, is caring for the sickest of the sick in the nation's hot spot.

Courtney White is a physician assistant who now calls New York City home. The University of Tennessee and Lincoln Memorial University grad works in the critical care units at two hospitals.

“I don’t think when I became a PA, I envisioned this would be something I would experience early in my career,“ Courtney said.

She said the first COVID-19 cases started coming into hospitals back in February.

“I remember one of my first cases, a patient who was fairly young and didn’t have a lot of co-morbidities. She ended up dying and I remember going, ‘Wait, this is kind of crazy.’”

And Courtney said it escalated from there. She recalls conversations with her colleagues about rationing resources if and when there weren’t enough ventilators for patients. Her hardest days were caring for those who were dying.

“When you are at the end of life, you are surrounded by your family and your loved ones. Now families are FaceTiming them and calling them even though a lot of these patients are intubated.”

The days are long and hard, but each night Courtney finds encouragement.

“At 7:00, New Yorkers open their windows and get on their balconies and cheer the healthcare workers who are switching shifts at the hospital. That’s just another something that lightens your day.”

And her co-workers lighten her spirits. When Courtney made the hard decision to postpone her bachelorette party and June wedding, they got creative and threw her a party in the hospital work room.

Family and friends back in Knoxville send their support through care packages. Courtney hasn’t been home to hug them or her fiancé in months. She said COVID-19 has been all consuming, confining and eye opening.

“I think it’s given me a greater appreciation for my family, friends colleagues and support system.”

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