Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to work as an EMT for two weeks in a city that happens to be a hot spot for a deadly new disease?
Yeah, neither have we.
That’s why we’re grateful for people like Vaughn Miller. The 25-year-old EMT from Syracuse, New York, volunteered for a two-week deployment to Newark, New Jersey, in early April to help with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Miller was one of “hundreds” of EMTs and paramedics who responded to a FEMA request for additional help in the greater New York area in late March as coronavirus cases there soared.
On April 10, the day of Miller’s first shift, New Jersey had 54,588 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,100 deaths; cases in Newark alone were increasing by 200 a day.
Miller told HuffPost he felt “a little ragged” after that first shift, though it was gratifying to be doing such necessary work.
“It feels good, even though it doesn’t at the same time physically,” he said with a laugh.
The mental toll seemed to sink in by day four. In a video filmed at the start of his early-morning shift, Miller reflected on the prior few days.
“I’ve seen more death, more dying and dead people in my week here than I have in my last year,” he said.
“That’s not a joke. It’s a very literal sentence. It’s absolutely insane how little help we can offer some of these people,” he added, his voice cracking a bit.
“It’s going to be hard. Very hard. It’s very hard here, but it’s very necessary. We’re EMS providers, we’re born and raised on ‘Do good’ and ‘Help these people.’ We can’t sometimes. That’s heartbreaking, but ... in the end, we’ll get through. We always have.”
Watch the video above to see all 14 days of Miller’s experience.