NEW YORK (AP) — Elizabeth Bonilla has been sleeping with the lights on.
By day, the 43-year-old FDNY paramedic is a pillar of care for the people around her. For her mother with leukemia and skin cancer. For her father with prostate cancer and heart issues. For her two sons, aged 22 and 16. And for patients and families gripped with fear and grief by the coronavirus pandemic that has put New York City under siege.
“Emotionally, you have to be strong for the families that are going through it,” she said. “You don’t want to cry in front of them. You want to show them that you’re strong and you’re there to support them.”
It’s different when she lays her head down at her home in the Bronx. She leaves on the lights and plays gospel music through the night, but she can’t shake the replays from her head.
“You hear the cries,” she said. “You just hear and you see everything all over again.”
The coronavirus pandemic has killed at least 10,000 in New York City, and at its peak, emergency calls nearly doubled their average to around 7,000 per day. Call volume has dropped in recent days to around 5,000-6,000, and ambulances and crews provided by FEMA have helped spread the workload.
Still, the FDNY’s 4,000 emergency medical workers are straining to keep up. They’ve taken unprecedented measures, including limiting the time spent trying to revive cardiac arrest victims. Normally, crews would devote up to 45 minutes applying life support interventions. During the pandemic, that timeframe has been chopped in half.
“I don’t think that anyone was prepared for this,” Bonilla said.