Houston-area nurse practitioners head to New York to help coronavirus patients

HOUSTON – Two Houston-area medical professionals are among the tens of thousands from around the nation heading to New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis.

“I am asking health care professionals across the country, if you don’t have a health care crisis in your community, please come help us in New York now. We need relief. We need relief for nurses working 12-hour shifts, one after the other after the other. We need relief for doctors. We need relief for attendants. If you’re not busy, come help us, please,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a news conference Tuesday.

Holly Benson, a certified nurse practitioner who works at North Houston Family Medicine-Conroe, will arrive in New York City Wednesday for 12-hour shifts for 21 days.

"My personal mission has been to try to live life, not say no and help out as much as I can wherever I can, so when the opportunity came up to me this past weekend I thought about it thought about my family and then why not?" Benson said.

It was a decision she says she made with the blessing of her husband and their 4-year-old daughter.

"He is in law enforcement so he understands the idea of running to the danger and not away from it so he's very comfortable with that concept. Her response was to get big tears in her eyes. And she said 'so when the coronavirus is gone you're coming home?' and I said baby I don't think it will be gone but I'm going to go help and I'll come right back to you," Benson said.

Dan Christopher is leaving his job at Texas Children's Hospital where he's spent the last 18 years of his career, the last 16 working as an emergency room nurse.

Deciding to head to New York City after watching news coverage of the unfolding tragedy.

“Somebody’s got to step up, I decided if not me who,” he said.

On Monday he begins an eight-week contract at New York University’s Langone Hospital.

"I'm sure as I step into the plane and see everything going on it will be a shock but I think I know what I'm getting myself into," Christopher said.

Last Saturday he posted a request to the NextDoor app, asking neighbors to donate whatever personal protective equipment they had so he could share it with his soon to be colleagues.

“The city of Houston has been great, my back seat is full of gloves, masks. Even if it’s one, two or 100, it will all help protect the staff,” he said.

Benson said she’s no hero, she’s doing what she can help.

“I want to show my daughter especially what it means to be brave and courageous,” she said.

The stakes are high for both Benson and Christopher. More than 200 healthcare workers in New York City have contracted coronavirus and last week two nurses there died.

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