COVID-19 nurse Ana Wilkinson has had a memorable year. Since the start of the pandemic, she’s traveled to some of the worst hotspots in the U.S., bringing her dancing moves and infectious spirit with her wherever she goes. Her videos have garnered quite a reaction on social media sites, including TikTok and Instagram, where she regularly sends good vibes and hilarious dances to her colleagues.
Now, she has a new mission. As India deals with the worst outbreak of the coronavirus on record, Wilkinson is looking to lend a hand.
A Year of Dancing (And Saving Lives)
Wilkinson had a realization early on during the pandemic: She has a passion for working in disaster areas. She was a full-time trauma/ER nurse in San Diego before deciding to become a travel nurse, so she could take assignments at the worst-hit facilities in the country.
She recorded a video of herself dancing at the height of the first wave of the virus here in the U.S., which quickly went viral. Coining the term “dancing nurse”, she started sharing videos of her experiences working on the front lines of the crisis, including a stint working at Harlem Hospital in New York City, once considered the epicenter of the pandemic.
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However, the experience came with plenty of heartbreak. “I would just be there in their last moment, hold their hand and cry,” Wilkinson said of treating patients in the ER.
She soon returned home to California as the crisis subsided in New York. Soon after, she started taking jobs in Texas as that state got walloped by the virus.
Just as the vaccines were first hitting the market, Wilkinson got a COVID-19 test to get her first shot only to discover that she had tested positive. Her symptoms started out mild but soon took a turn for the worst. “I had it really bad. I was short of breath. I couldn’t move. I just sat on the couch, if I made it down to the couch. I was just exhausted. My husband did everything; he’s a stud,” she told her fans on Instagram.
Luckily, she recovered from her illness a few weeks later, but instead of taking it easy, she decided to turn her ordeal into a learning experience. She started posting about what it was like to get COVID-19 on the job to show the public that nurses can get sick, too.
“We take care of the public, and yes, we get sick. We are human. But if we get sick, who is going to take care of your families?” she said. “As more and more health care [workers] get ill or even die, we feel frustrated, tired, and discouraged. All we ask is for you to wear your mask.”
Pushing to Go to India
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to fall and the U.S. tries to get back to normal, Wilkinson doesn’t plan on celebrating anytime soon. She’s already made going to India as a travel nurse her next mission. “I’m trying to volunteer to go to India. I’m trying to fly myself out there to help,” she said.
But that’s easier said than done.
India is reporting around 363,000 new cases a day, but much of the country doesn’t have access to testing equipment, so the true count could be much higher. Hospitals are over capacity, oxygen remains in short supply, and no one knows if they will get a hospital bed if they come down with COVID-19.
The U.S. government told Americans in India to leave the country and return home as soon as possible. The State Department recently put out a Level 4 advisory asking U.S. citizens not to travel to India due to the risk of transmission, violence, terrorism, and unrest.
Wilkinson wants to go support the nurses working on the front lines of the crisis, even if it could put her life in jeopardy. “I know how nurses are in the hospital, so if I can send a nurse home or one or two and let them be with their family, then it’s completely all worth it,” she said.
She admits that she’s been scammed once or twice trying to make arrangements to go to India, but she doesn’t plan on giving up, despite the latest travel restrictions.
Wilkinson and her husband, who’s a firefighter, turned their honeymoon into a medical mission to save others during a trip to India back in 2010. She still remembers how amazing the people were.
“I just feel that these are the things I was made to do to help people. I was made to help people all around the world,” Wilkinson said.
We’re so proud of San Diego’s “Dancing Nurse”.