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Local nurse in NYC gets COVID-19
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Warren County resident Lisa Wilder traveled to New York City to help COVID-19 patients and caught the virus herself.
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New York City, with an estimated population of 8.3 million, has been crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic with 18 times more confirmed cases than the entire state of Tennessee.

A local nurse practitioner is recovering from COVID-19 after selflessly providing aid to those suffering in New York City, the epicenter of coronavirus in America.

Lisa Wilder has dedicated her life to helping others. Wilder ventured into New York at the end of March to help the medical staff on the front lines battle the deadly illness and protect those infected.

Wilder has worked in the medical field since 2006.

“I wanted to become involved in medicine and helping others when my mother passed away from cancer when I was 7,” says Wilder. “I remember watching her in the hospital as the doctors and nurses were taking care of her. I thought about how I wanted to help people like that someday.”

Wilder is a nurse practitioner at Cumberland Adult Medicine in McMinnville. An associate in Wilder’s office received a call asking for people to come and help in New York, but since the staff member had a small child, the information was passed on to Lisa.

“I went to New York because it’s a calling for me to be a nurse and help people,” says Wilder. “In our small town, I feel like the numbers show people have taken it seriously with only four cases in Warren County. It seemed like if I was going to ever do something like this, this was the time to act.”

Lisa is the mother of five children, ranging in ages from 5 to 17, and has been married for almost 20 years to husband, Danny Wilder. 

“I talked to my husband, children and overseeing physician about it, and everyone was in agreement with me going to help, so I went,” says Wilder.

Wilder arrived in New York on March 22, and began working at Roosevelt Island Medical Center, not far from the Empire State Building, on March 27. The facility is located on Roosevelt Island, and was originally a nursing home called Coler Rehabiliation and Nursing Care Center.

“The building is very large, but it wasn’t designed to be a hospital. It was built to be a nursing home, so we’ve had many challenges trying to make the rooms work for hospital space,” says Wilder. “The fact a nursing home was located in the building made me very nervous because of what happened in Washington state and other nursing homes, but it’s like two different facilities at this point.” 

Wilder said she didn’t fully notice having symptoms until Easter this past Sunday.

“When I could tell something wasn’t right, I went to get tested,” says Wilder. “In hindsight, I had noticed I had been coughing a little more. I believe my symptoms started on Wednesday, April 8. I developed those after 11 days of working at the hospital.”

The building where Wilder was working was supposed to be an overflow facility. As hospitals became overrun due to the massive number of COVID-19 patients needing emergency treatment, patients who weren’t in critical condition were transferred to Roosevelt Island Medical Center. 

“I was shown a newspaper article which said the facility at Roosevelt Island was going to be COVID-19 free. However, I was there the second day the facility opened and it quickly became apparent that wasn’t going to be the case,” says Wilder. “In order for the facility to function in any essential way, it would have to accept COVID patients because there were so many who were stable and on oxygen in the hospital, but didn’t require ventilation or constant respiratory therapy. They just weren’t well enough to go home yet.”

The hospitals began moving the COVID positive, yet stable, patients to Roosevelt Island Medical Center. The number of patients being moved there continued to escalate.

Wilder had worked in the hospital days before realizing something was wrong on Sunday, April 12 and received her test results two days later. 

“When I found out I was infected, I just prayed I hadn’t gotten anyone sick,” says Wilder.

Although Wilder has been quarantined in her hotel room since last Sunday, and must remain so for at least seven days, she is looking forward to going back to the hospital to help those in need.

“If I’m better tomorrow, I have to wait 72 hours to confirm I don’t have a fever or any respiratory symptoms, and I can then go back to work. I believe I now have the antibodies to protect me,” says Wilder. “I think this is what I’m supposed to be doing so I feel very much at peace being here. I’ve not been afraid, I haven’t been alone and I feel God is with me. He sent me here so I will be OK.”

Another reason Wilder wants to stay in New York is to make sure she doesn’t infect her loved ones if she were to return home. 

“If I come home now, it’s just increasing the risk of me spreading COVID-19 so I’m going to try to stay a little bit longer,” says Wilder.

Wilder has experienced many different reactions of her going to assist those in New York.

“I’ve had so many messages from family, friends, patients and others who have been very positive and reassuring,” says Wilder. “However, some people have been upset for me leaving and endangering myself. I assure them I’m not afraid, and I’m at peace, as well as letting them know this is what I’m supposed to be doing right now. My immediate family, husband, children and most of my co-workers, have been very supportive.”

Wilder has received many packages with toiletries and other items, but she gives those to others still working on the front line.

“I’ve had money sent to me, but I don’t need it so I’ve talked with HOME, or the Homeless of McMinnville Efforts, and I ask for those wanting to make donations to do so by helping our local homeless population in Warren County,” says Wilder. “A large population of the patients I’m dealing with in New York are homeless. They are dying from illness or starvation and have no one to go to for help.”

“When we saw how Lisa wanted to help us, we were so grateful she thought of us,” says co-director of HOME, Sheila Fann. “She is seeing the plight first-hand. We may be on a smaller scale than New York, but the problem is still the same.” 

To send packages to help Lisa’s team members, they can be sent to Lisa Wilder at 481 8th Avenue, New York, New York, 10001. Her room number is 2929.

Those wanting to donate can go to HOME’s GoFundMe account, HOME McMinnville, or by calling co-directors, Sheila Fann at 931-273-4744 or Tina Higgins at 931-273-6519.