Hope from Harlem

Written by Maggie Murdock Nichols in the May 2020 Issue

Hope From Harlem

Kym Langford and her family live in Edmond. She works as the Nursing Department Lab Coordinator at Oklahoma Christian University. Her husband Ben also works at OC as a professor. Kym is originally from Washington state, and their family spent six years in Uganda serving as missionaries. Kym and Ben have two sons, a freshman and a 7th grader, and a daughter who is in 4th grade. 

How did your time working in New York City come about?

Well, there wasn’t work for me at home. My job at OC is centered around hands-on learning. All my students went home, classes moved to online and I was left with time on my hands. This opportunity came up and the timing was right for me to go serve, help and work. I volunteered to go, but I am paid. 

How long have you been in New York City?

I arrived on March 27th and came into work at Harlem Hospital Center the next day. I was asked to stay here eight more weeks.
I’ve currently committed to two more weeks. Honestly, I considered leaving after two weeks. It was 
total chaos. Things are getting better now. We’re at maximum capacity, but the influx is slowing down. Thankfully. 

What are your shifts like?

I work nights. I leave the hotel, where 1,000 other nurses stay, at 6:25pm. We arrive in Harlem and I begin my shift at 7:30pm. We have four to five patients per room, and I provide collaborative care with other nurses. I desperately want to provide my patients with not only quality care but comfort. Many of my patients don’t have cell phones, so I use my personal cell phone to let them check in with their family. I’m really torn. I want to stay with them, but I really have to get in, do my work and get out. I try to minimize my exposure as much as possible. Outside of work, there isn’t a lot to do. I get on the bus shortly after 8am to head back to the hotel, shower, eat dinner and go to bed. What’s crazy is we were here last summer for vacation. It’s eerie to see a normally bustling place so empty. 

How is your family managing?

My middle son, who is usually pretty reserved, told me, “Mom, I think you’re really awesome. What you’re doing is really cool.” That really helps. The first couple weeks here were really difficult. I try to FaceTime my family at least once a day. I am really missing them. This is probably hardest on my daughter, but I know my kids are in great hands with my husband.

We’ve all heard about equipment shortages, how are you dealing with that?

Monitoring equipment is crucial to the survival of these patients and we just don’t have enough. We don’t have sufficient oxygen delivery devices. We lack ventilators, pap machines, and simple oxygen monitors. It’s really scary to walk into a room and notice a patient that’s agitated due to lack of oxygen, there’s no monitor to otherwise alert me. I am given a new N95 mask every five days.

Can you tell us about a case that stands out in your mind?

There was a guy who came in, he was young, in his thirties. He and his wife were both sick. She was 27 weeks pregnant and being cared for at another hospital. They had three kids at home. I finished a shift and wondered if he’d be alive when I came in the next night. I was able to continue to care for him and see him go home. His wife is now home, too.

What have you learned from this experience?

You know, there is a lot of hope. I took a photo in front of a sculpture here that spells “HOPE.” People are rising up to help. I do feel like I’m back on the mission field and that my time in Uganda uniquely prepared me for this. 

What would you like to tell your Edmond community? Do you have any advice?

It seems crazy that by the time this magazine comes out, businesses could be open. Seriously, hang on. It is too early. I know the curve is flattening in Oklahoma. I know the economy is struggling and that businesses are wanting to get their customers back, but it is not worth dying for. 

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