Front-Line Heroes: EMT Rosa Jimenez ’20 Helping Save Lives in the Bronx

Front-Line Heroes: EMT Rosa Jimenez ’20 Helping Save Lives in the Bronx

Front-Line Heroes: EMT Rosa Jimenez ’20 Helping Save Lives in the Bronx

New York City is at the epicenter of the Covid-19 health crisis, and as a New York City-based College that educates students committed to public service, our alumni, students, faculty, and staff are working on the front lines to keep our communities safe. Our “Front-Line Heroes” article series serves as a testament to the valiant efforts of our first responders and essential workers. As a community we thank them for their service, dedication, and personal sacrifice.

As an EMT, Rosa Jimenez ’20, a John Jay APPLE Corps student, is working on the front lines of the Covid-19 crisis in the City’s hardest hit borough. The Bronx has the highest infection rate in the City, and with underlying conditions like asthma, hypertension, and diabetes surpassing the national average, Jimenez has seen firsthand how the virus is impacting families, communities, and medical professionals. “I’ve seen so many doctors and nurses end up with Covid-19. It’s concerning when you look at the patient’s chart and you recognize the name,” says Jimenez. But being at the center of the crisis isn’t deterring Jimenez’s plans to become a physician assistant. In fact, it’s actually strengthened her resolve. “Every day I’m out in the field, I get to see firsthand how hard our health care professionals are working to save lives. They’re working together to come through on the other side of this pandemic and help as many patients as they can, and that’s inspiring. They love the work they do and are willing to risk their own lives to help others. They choose this line of work because they want to help.”

“We actually don’t have disinfectant wipes, so I have to cut up a blanket or sheet and make my own wipes from the cut-up pieces and a disinfectant solution.”—Rosa Jimenez

Now that the virus is acutely affecting our communities, and you’re directly on the front line, what does a typical day look like for you?
The minute I get to work, I punch in and rush back to the bus—that’s what we call the ambulance—to clean and disinfect it. We actually don’t have disinfectant wipes, so I have to cut up a blanket or sheet and make my own wipes from the cut-up pieces and a disinfectant solution. Then I disinfect the entire bus, because the bus was used by the crew on the previous shift and they had contact with patients. At first, when I realized we had no disinfectant wipes, it was traumatizing, but there’s not much that we can do. We’ve grown accustomed to it now and work with what we have. Once the bus is disinfected, I ensure we’re stocked up with supplies and ready to receive a job. While I’m disinfecting, my partner is signing us into the computer system letting them know we’re ready to receive a job and take on a patient.

Can you tell us about some of the calls you’ve received?
Anytime we get a call from the 9-1-1 dispatcher, it’s not necessarily known if the person has Covid-19 or not, so we always suit up. We wear our mask, our protective gown, our gloves, and our goggles before we go upstairs to an apartment, into a home, or make patient contact. We want to make sure we keep everyone safe because anyone may be infected with the virus.

“It’s heart-wrenching. You do your best to save people, and when you can’t because of the lack of equipment, you feel helpless.” —Rosa Jimenez

Is there any moment that hit you particularly hard? Why did that moment strike such a powerful chord with you?
I was dropping off a patient in the emergency department when a fellow EMT ran in with a patient in cardiac arrest. When the patient was brought into the room the doctor automatically ceased all resuscitative efforts, which means they’re no longer trying to resuscitate or bring the person back to life. I looked at my colleague and we were both just so confused because that has never happened before, where they stop all efforts. Normally the doctors and nurses jump into action. We later found out that the hospital didn’t have any available ventilators, so there was nothing they could hook the patient onto to support breathing. That was shocking and heartbreaking. It hit my colleague hard, she was in tears and when I asked her if she was okay, she said she was fine, but she ended up leaving for the day. It’s heart-wrenching. You do your best to save people, and when you can’t because of the lack of equipment, you feel helpless.

How has this global health crisis impacted you on a personal level?
I definitely noticed that I’ve become more paranoid about hygiene. I worry about my family getting sick. There’s an eight-year-old child living in my home who has diabetes. We share a kitchen table and he touches everything I touch—doorknobs, light switches, utensils. I do everything I can to protect myself at work, and once I get home I do everything I can to protect him. I want to keep him safe because having an underlying condition like diabetes complicates your outcome if you get the virus.

“I have family members who have actually expressed that they now want to work in the health field because of the work I do.” —Rosa Jimenez

Have there been any acts of kindness, moments of levity, encouragement or hope that you’d like to share? Why did this moment uplift you so much?
When we’re parked in the street, people will wave to us, salute us, and thank us for what we’re doing. Sometimes we’ll be driving down a street and people will just wave to us and cheer us on. It’s also nice to see how inspired people are by the work we’re doing. I have family members who have actually expressed that they now want to work in the health field because of the work I do.

What other thoughts and experiences has this crisis brought to your mind?
I want to sincerely thank those that are staying at home during this incredibly challenging time. I know dealing with this crisis is hard, especially for those struggling at home because they don’t have an income coming in, or they live alone, or they live with mental illness. We have definitely noticed your effort and want to thank you because by staying at home you’re helping to save lives. We really do appreciate you.