Fort Myers nurse traveling to India to help treat COVID-19 patients

Posted at 6:57 PM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 18:57:47-04

NAPLES — A nurse from Fort Myers says she can’t sit back and watch the COVID-19 crisis in India any longer.

Sonal Payne is joining dozens of medical professionals hoping to be the first international aid group to offer the country assistance.

When COVID-19 cases were spiking in Southwest Florida, Payne was working in the intensive care unit at NCH Baker Hospital, but now she’s worried about her family back in India, and she wants to do anything she can to help.

"It’s hard, you know my whole family is there. Every time they call I just, I’m always scared that, oh my God I hope they’re okay," said Payne.

Payne can relate to what the doctors and nurses in India are going through. At NCH Baker Hospital, she had her own harrowing experiences with COVID-19 patients.

"I still remember that day when I just came out of my room and I started screaming I need some hands over here, because this patient is coding," said Payne.

Payne is joining a group of other nurses from around the country, who connected over social media, and over shared experiences. Like Alexandra Chang, who worked in a New York COVID ward.

"Every day I walked to the hospital, I walked by the trucks with bodies in them, and I just know what that’s like," said Chang.

But those experiences have taught Chang and Payne how to handle the rush of patients India is experiencing right now. Clinical Educator Anne Mellema at NCH said Payne’s experience there could save lives.

"We’ve also learned better nursing care, we’re quicker. We do things like putting pumps outside of the rooms. Do other things, like Facetiming with the family members," said Mellema.

The group of nurses has started a GoFundMe to pay for travel to India, and they’ve already raised more than $12,000. They’re hoping to leave by next month.

"I really hope we can go there and make some difference," said Payne.

Payne said the last hurdle to getting over there is obtaining visas required for travel. She said they were told by the Indian government that they will be the first international aid group to visit since the latest spike began.