SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A San Diego ER Nurse known as the "dancing nurse" returned home Saturday after working nearly a month straight in a Texas hospital.
That was her second stint during the pandemic. She went to New York for six weeks from April to May to help out there.
While in New York she danced to bring joy to her patients and that's how she got her nickname, the "dancing nurse."
"They kinda just see me dance and they’re like wait a minute I know you!"
Registered Nurse Ana Wilkinson said she is recognized sometimes at home in San Diego.
When asked what it is like being known as the "dancing nurse," she replied, "They [my patients] probably think I’m weird right off the bat but it’s a good conversation from there on and I think it actually eases them because they’re so nervous and so scared."
With nearly 300,000 Americans losing their lives due to the coronavirus, it's understandable why they're scared.
Right now, cases and hospitalizations are sky high.
When asked if Wilkinson keeps count of how many patients she's lost, she said, "I do not, I mean it wouldn’t. I prefer keeping count of people I save, I mean people we all save it’s not just me."
Wilkinson said she remembers days they've lost as many as 10 people in one day on the floor.
Some of her patients stay with her after they've passed.
"My 23-year-olds, my 25, I say mine because I felt like they were my kids that I tried everything I could to save them. And to a lady who was 32-years-old who died from COVID. That’s what I try to tell people, COVID does not discriminate, age, race, color, anything. It just picks you."
She squeezed their hands in reassurance. Sometimes she's the last smile they see.
Now that a vaccine is coming, she's excited to have a weapon in the war.
"We just need everyone on board to do this, you can’t just one person, just maybe? It’s going to be yes. This is how we’re going to do it. We’re all going to get vaccinated. We all are going to stop this war," she said.
A war that kept her from seeing her 7-year-old son Declan lose his first and second tooth.
A war that kept her on the opposite coast for birthdays, Easter and Mother's Day.
A war she's continuing to fight when she returns to work at UCSD Medical Center on Monday.
"We are definitely warriors and we'd do it again, and we'd do it again and we'd do it again because we love it. We love helping others. We love helping people and that's why we do this because we want to make a difference in the world," Wilkinson said.
She said working in a rural Texas hospital was very different from her time in New York. In the month she was working 10+ hour shifts, she only had three days off.
She said we've learned a lot about how to treat coronavirus patients since the beginning of the pandemic.
"I was in Midland and Odessa. We were a very small town but we saw everything," she said she learned even more critical thinking skills.
The most stressful part of her work was how packed the hospital became, saying patients were sent from nearby hospitals that were at capacity.
When asked if she regrets going to New York and Texas and if she would do it again, Wilkinson said, "I would do it in a heartbeat 100% I love these medical missions I call them, because yes we see a lot of things. Yes it’s emotional and some of us have PTSD because we do see a lot. But we do it because we love it. We love helping others, we love making a difference as much as we can."