Ariel Rudd ‘13 wants people to know they need to stay inside.

The Butler University graduate, now a nurse in a large hospital on the Upper East Side of New York City, is on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in a place where the virus appears to be reaching its peak. And, she says, it’s way worse than she ever thought it would be.

“I think it’s easy for people to not take it seriously before they’ve actually seen what can happen,” she says. “But I know Indianapolis is now becoming a hot spot for COVID-19, and that makes me nervous for my family and friends still living there. From someone who has lived this already, I can tell you this is serious. It’s really, really bad.”

The Kirklin, Indiana, native came to Butler in 2009 and graduated four years later with a degree in Health and Physical Education. She’d always thought she wanted to be a physical therapist, but job shadowing sessions later in college helped her realize nursing would be a better fit. She wanted to be part of the first layer of care, right on the front lines. So, after graduating from Butler, Rudd completed an accelerated nursing program at Marian University.

Rudd launched her career with a position in the neonatal ICU at St. Vincent Indianapolis, then she spent a few years as a traveling nurse and landed in New York City. She accepted a nursing management position at her current hospital, and she’s been working in the pediatric ICU there ever since.

Until a couple weeks ago, Rudd was caring exclusively for patients ages 24 or younger. But the surge in COVID-19 cases forced her hospital to transfer nearly all its patients to elsewhere in the city, quickly transforming its units into spaces dedicated to coronavirus patients.

“That’s almost 900 beds,” Rudd says. “Before my unit started receiving patients, I went down to some of the other units to see what we were about to get into. And honestly, it’s like something from a movie. It’s bed after bed of people with the same exact thing. It’s patients of a wide range of ages. I was especially surprised to see how many young people are getting very sick with this.”

With a worldwide shortage of personal protective equipment in medical facilities, Rudd says her team only has one N95 mask per day for each person. Still, she’s grateful for all her hospital is doing to keep the staff safe.

Over the course of about a week, new walls went up to create more separation between patients and healthcare providers. The hospital also replaced several of its windows with HEPA filters, which can help eliminate pathogen-filled air particles in ways that better protect the staff.

“I’m very impressed and proud of the bravery and the strength of the nurses and the other employees I’m leading,” Rudd says. “You know, they’re scared. They have families they don’t want to take this virus home to. They have kids and grandparents they are trying to protect. But they’ve been so amazing—taking hits as they come. They are ready and willing to do anything to help these patients and save lives.”

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Katie Grieze
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