Local nurse practitioner on front lines of COVID-19 fight

BELL COUNTY, Texas (KWTX) A nurse practitioner from Central Texas is serving on the front lines of the coronavirus fight.

A nurse practitioner at the Temple VA is on the frontlines of the coronavirus fight.

Ashley Hughes is a captain in the Air Force and nurse practitioner at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System in Temple.

"It feels amazing to be here at the epicenter here in New York of this pandemic. It is truly a honor and privilege to serve," Hughes said.

She has worked at the Temple VA for 12 years. After answering a questionnaire from the military about her medical background and if she was working on something COVID-19 related for the community, she was deployed on April 5.

She is now working at Queens Hospital in New York City.

"Every unit and available space has been turned into a mini ICU, step-down unit, something specific for COVID patients," she said.

The patients she help are positive for COVID-19.

"It's very upsetting. Some patients are sedated because most are on ventilators. Some are what we call light-sedated because we're trying to ween them off the ventilator or not make their settings too high," Hughes said.

As a result of the environment inside the hospital and ICU, she is often the only sense of family her patients have. She recalled helping a patient who had been in the hospital for 21 days. The patient had not seen their family, so she helped coordinate a FaceTime call.

"She had a completely changed attitude. Of course seeing your family and loved ones brightens your mood. She was able to do that. They were able to see she was being well taken care of...it was amazing," Hughes said.

She is also looking forward to bringing back what she's learned to Central Texas.

"I would love to bring this experience back home and be able to apply that back at the VA with the knowledge I now have at hand and a deeper understanding of even the respiratory system I had before leaving and now knowing what to do if this pandemic spreads again or comes back," she said.

As far as how long she will be in New York, as of now there is no end date.