AUSTIN, Texas — Aurelio and Rocio Nunez are high school sweethearts, married for 16 years. They even work together as nurses for Ascension Seton Northwest.
What You Need To Know
Aurelio and Rocio Nunez, a married couple, employed as nurses at Ascension Seton Northwest
Recently sent to aid a Detroit hospital overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients
Michigan’s Wayne County among the hardest-hit counties in the country
“We work at the same hospital, same floor, just different shifts,” said Rocio Nunez.
When asked if they’d be willing to go to Detroit to help out their sister hospital, which is overwhelmed by the coronavirus patients, the husband and wife duo didn’t hesitate to say yes. In fact, they were on a plane the very next day – leaving their 14-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son with family.
“When this opportunity came up we already had family members willing to step up and help us, so it was meant to be,” Rocio Nunez said.
Rocio Nunez was assigned to work with some of the first patients infected with the virus in Detroit.
“Some of the patients I got to send home, I got to see how they went from being completely unresponsive to standing up and getting in their family members’ car,” she said.
But for Aurelio Nunez, who worked on an “end of life” team, his patients didn’t have the same happy ending.
“Taking care of so many patients, there’s at least one patient who gets to you, and I had that moment with one patient,” he said. “I mean, he was talking to me, and then I come back on the next day to my shift and they tell me he had passed away. That scared me because it tells me this virus moves very quickly.”
Detroit is one of the hardest-hit cities in the country.
When the couple arrived on April 19, there were more than 13,600 coronavirus cases in Wayne County, with 1,119 deaths, according to the CDC.
By the time they left two weeks later, the number of cases in the county jumped to more than 17,100, and the death toll rose to 1,884.
“We were told many of them were healthy individuals, and then within weeks they started deteriorating,” Aurelio Nunez said. “Their condition got worse and worse and worse.”
Now that they’re back home, the Nunezes say their experience shaped how they see this virus.
“Getting back home we’ve been a little more cautious than before, because again we saw things that not everyone gets to see,” Rocio Nunez said.
Their volunteer work has already left an impression on their teenage daughter.
“Telling her all this, she pretty much said, ‘When I get older, I want to follow in your footsteps as well and help out, be somebody in the community for tragic events like this,'” Aurelio Nunez said.