My COVID-19 Story: Camille Culbengan

A pediatric nurse volunteers to help her colleagues in the adult emergency department.

As soon as COVID-19 hit, Camille Culbengan volunteered to work extra shifts at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in the adult emergency department and has since added on shifts at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen. Camille is no stranger to helping out in times of need: She had previously volunteered to work triage tents in the Bahamas in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. Here, she shares what she has faced as a nurse in the pandemic.

Camille Culbengan sharing her My COVID-19 Story

I am not only proud, I am honored to be on the front lines. When we heard the outcry of our adult teammates, we wanted to help them and be there in solidarity.

It’s different when you just hear about the pandemic being grim and tragic, but now that it’s in my home and right in front of me, it affects me much differently. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced occurred when I was working overtime in the adult ED. I was walking in the hallway grabbing supplies, and there was a patient calling out for a nurse, so I stopped by. She said, “Nurse, I am scared. I’m so scared that I’m going to die alone.”

I held her hand and I told her, “It’s OK to be scared. We’re all scared, but you’re not alone. I’m here with you.” And this patient was so grateful that I took the time out to talk to her, but to see the fear and suffering in her eyes really affected me. Once I finished speaking to her, I had to step away and cry because that’s when it really hit home. All you can do is just be there for the patient. You see your co-workers who are overwhelmed; you see very sick patients. It’s very heartbreaking, but we push through together as a team and we’re there for each other, and we’re going to fight this. We will get through this.