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Salute to local heroes: Bowman’s Hill curator provides nursing care to COVID-19 patients


Jason Ksepka, the curator of the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve (BHWP) native plant collection and a former nurse, is one of the thousands of health care professionals who have traveled to New York City to help the overwhelmed health care system respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Assigned to the Henry J. Carter Specialty Hospital and Nursing Facility, a public hospital in Harlem, Ksepka on April 1 began caring for high-risk, long-term patients who did not have COVID-19. Since mid-April, however, he has been working 12-hour shifts on an all-coronavirus unit. On the worse days, all six of his patients have been on ventilators.

“I’m tired and I don’t sleep as much as I should,” said Ksepka, who in two months will only have six days off. “But that’s the nature of the beast. I feel lucky to be physically and emotionally well enough to be able to do this.”

Although it is not true of all New York City hospitals, Ksepka reports that personal protection equipment supplies such as masks and gloves are generally adequate at his hospital. He also notes that the staff and patients have been very appreciative of the out-of-town health care providers, who include doctors and nurses from California, Nevada and the Southeastern United States.

“Even after being here for more than a month, the staff repeatedly tell me, ‘Thank you for being here, thank you for your help,’” he said.

Based on his front seat at the pandemic, Ksepka said, “If people will continue to do what they’re supposed to do by practicing social distance and following the other guidelines, we can work on getting this under control and avoid overtaxing the hospitals and health care system.

“But if we don’t, we are going to rebound into a pretty serious crisis status once again.”

Ksepka, the BHWP curator since 2015, looks forward to returning again to care for the New Hope preserve’s more than 700 native plant species – but not until he is no longer needed to care for New York City’s COVID-19 patients.