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Rockford nurse leaves home to fight COVID-19 in New York

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Brittany Bankes lost her parents when she was a teenager.

Both her mom and dad passed away from cancer within a year of each other.

Bankes helped care for her parents in their finals day which led her onto the path toward the medical field.

"I knew then after taking care of my mom that healthcare was kind of the way I wanted to go," Bankes said.

Until recently, Bankes was a registered nurse at SwedishAmerican Hospital in Rockford.

As of last week, Bankes left her hometown to go to New York City, which has quickly grown into the epicenter of COVID-19 in United States.

She went to the Big Apple to join first responders from across the country to help fight the coronavirus where the outbreak is most dense.

"As of the debriefing this morning, they still have approximately 700 patients that are on a ventilator so those patients obviously need close monitoring so most of my care will be with COVID patients," Bankes said.

Bankes is scheduled to work in the ER at first but did offer her services in the ICU where the most serious COVID-19 cases are.

She has been in NYC for a little over a week and she described the scene as a "controlled chaos."

"When I got in Sunday, I tried to go to the grocery store and they are limiting the number of people that are allowed in the grocery store so there was a line outside to get in. There are signs on most of the stores that say if you don't have a face covering on you can't come in. I definitely think with the businesses being strict about it that's helping," Bankes said.

"They've got it down to a system now and it seems to be working although the people they do see coming in are more sick. It seems like the numbers are decreasing but the level of acuity in the patient is definitely going up."

Bankes believes the transition for her is going smoothly because of her experience at SwedishAmerican.

"It was kind of nice coming from a Rockford hospital where we're just now kind of starting to see the big amount of cases as New York was seeing three weeks ago," Bankes said.

Bankes could be out east for up to three months.

While she is fighting on the front lines, her family is back in Rockford holding down the fort until she returns home.

"My husband owns a small business in Rockford. He owns a used car lot and he is one of the businesses taking a hit from not being an essential business. We've essentially lost an income from that," Bankes said.

"My son is in third grade and it's online schooling. My husband is now home and can help him with school and things just kind of fell into place."

This type of opportunity is one Bankes has always wanted.

Since her husband is able to be with the kids right now, she figured "why not now."

She is very excited for an opportunity to be among healthcare workers from all parts of the country in a time when they are being relied on, and appreciated more than ever.

"A lot of times, nurses say its a thankless job. We don't really get the thanks that we sometimes wish we had gotten," Bankes said.

"We don't expect a thanks but it's nice especially in cases where these types of patients are recovering, it's nice to see them at their worst and then see them being discharged and they're walking out and they're so happy that they're feeling so much better."

At the end of the day, Bankes will be happy to return home to her family, bringing back knowledge to help the fight against COVID-19 in the stateline.

"If I can bring one thing back to Rockford as a nurse that will make our community healthier then it's really a benefit for me."

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Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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