Andrew Greenway and Holly Macklay met at the burn center when they both joined the team in 1984, and they exchanged vows five years later. Ever since, their marriage has given them strength during difficult times in their careers, especially when 9/11 struck and during the months that ensued.
Greenway was working his regular shift on the eighth floor when he heard that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. Staff immediately initiated the hospital-wide disaster plan to make room for 9/11 patients.
“The burn patients started coming in bursts. People were waiting for them — physicians, doctors, nurses, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, everybody was ready,” says Greenway. “Teams would get patients into the rooms, put IVs in them, make sure their airways were secure, and clean them very quickly.”
Because patients with severe burn injuries can experience extreme heat loss, “the team would descend on them, wrap them up and get them warm again and do the next one and the next one and the next one,” says Greenway, a clinical nurse specialist.
Meanwhile, Macklay was in the middle of getting her two young children off to school when she heard the news and watched on TV the first tower fall in real time. The couple alternated their hospital shifts so someone was always home with the children. So when Greenway finally walked through their front door at 1 a.m., within a few hours, “I jumped up and went in for my shift the next morning,” says Macklay.
In the unit, “there were a lot of patients who were profoundly and critically ill,” recalls Macklay, a nurse practitioner. “They were coming and going from the operating room and on life support.”
From the beginning, “nurses were involved in the whole recovery process,” says Macklay of the nursing staff. “We felt grateful that we were able to be a part of helping some of the survivors.”
“I think a nurse’s job is to hold people up,” adds Greenway, who also valued that he and Macklay could support each other during this time.
Over the next month, Macklay and Greenway continued to tag-team caring for patients at the hospital and for their kids at home (the oldest of which is now a NewYork-Presbyterian paramedic). They only shared fleeting moments in the evening before falling asleep when they welcomed the chance to reconnect and talk about what they were grateful for each day.
“We always have had the great fortune to be there for one another,” says Greenway. “It’s a career saver, a soul saver, and a life saver.”