Nurse heads into the Covid-19 fray to help

ort High grad Haley Bretl has traveled to hard-hit New Jersey to help care for those battling coronavirus

PORT WASHINGTON High School graduate Haley Bretl, who is a surgical nurse, has traveled to New Jersey to help treat Covid-19 patients in a particularly hard-hit part of the country.
Ozaukee Press staff

In times of crisis, Fred Rogers famously said, “look for the helpers.”

With the country shut down due to fears over the Covid-19 outbreak, Port Washington native Haley Bretl wants to help. Last weekend she headed to the epicenter of the disease in New Jersey and New York.

The 2005 Port Washington High School grad is a surgical nurse who will take her skills to JFK Medical Center in Edison, N.J., to help deal with the influx of Covid-19 patients.

More than half the nation’s cases and deaths have occurred in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, putting pressure on health care facilities there.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there have been nearly 250,000 cases of Covid-19 reported in the state of New York,  resulting in about 14,000 deaths, followed by more than 85,000 cases in New Jersey, resulting in more than 4,000 deaths.

That’s more than a third of 800,000 cases in the United States. Wisconsin, by comparison, has just 4,500 cases.

“If we were getting hit that bad, I would want people to come here and help us,” Bretl said last week.

According to news reports, hospitals around the country have posted thousands of notices seeking to hire health-care professionals on a temporary basis to help with the expected influx of coronavirus sufferers.

In early April, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would need an additional 45,000 medical personnel to fight the outbreak and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on health-care workers across the country to travel to New York.

Bretl made the 14-hour drive to New Jersey on Saturday with a friend,  another nurse. The two of them have rented an apartment to stay while there.

But things got off to a rocky start when Bretl, who lives in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee, had loaded up her car and went back inside to say goodbye to her dog and her boyfriend.

When she came out, someone had broken into her car and stolen her backpack, which contained “all the important things,” she said. “My phone, computer and accessories, passport, credit cards and earbuds.”

No phone, no computer, no credit cards, Bretl said it was a long drive to New Jersey.

“I had about 14 hours to think. I realized how much I grew as a person in the past year,” she wrote on her blog. “Those are honestly just things. They can be replaced.” 

The idea of going to a new place to work as a nurse is not new to them since both have worked as traveling nurses, Bretl working in Madison and Colorado since she graduated from Cardinal Stritch University in 2012.

“We just decided we should help,” Bretl said. “We reached out to the travel company that I work with and we were able to sign a contract to work there for eight weeks and work on their Covid-19 floor.”

Bretl said last week she doesn’t know what to expect when she arrives, but that doesn’t worry her.

“When you take a travel position, you don’t really know what you’re going to walk into so you just go with the flow,” she said. “I’m trying to not worry because how can you worry about what you don’t know? You can’t live your life like that.”

Bretl is the daughter of  Linda and stepfather Tim Prom and Scott and stepmother Christina Bretl. She has three sisters —Aimee, Kelsey and Carly.

She said she is looking forward to using skills she has recently developed as a health and wellness coach.

“I’m looking forward to using my coaching degree to help with the anxiety and the stress that people are experiencing and to be there for the staff,” she said. “That will be exciting.”


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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