Ryan Ward and Jamie Edens Jan 2021

Tulsa ICU nurses Ryan Ward and Jamie Edens deployed to New York City and McAllen, Texas, in 2020 to serve patients hospitalized with COVID-19. While deployed, they were surprised to learn they are expecting a baby boy, due in May, after years of failed infertility treatments.

Jamie Edens and Ryan Ward are uncomfortable being called heroes. However, it’s a fitting label for this married duo, who are both ICU nurses. 

In April the couple quit their jobs at Hillcrest Hospital South in Tulsa for an assignment in New York to help combat COVID-19.  

Edens and Ward, who grew up in Tulsa and met as co-workers at the Oklahoma Heart Institute, stayed in the Big Apple through late June. Ward worked at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan; Edens at King’s County Hospital in Brooklyn.

“We had not done anything like this before,” Ward says, describing the difficult experience. “Once (patients were) ventilated, mortality rates were around 80%. Refrigerated trucks served as mobile morgues. We served as stand-ins for family as families were not allowed onto the unit due to the high risk of further spreading the virus.”

One enduring memory is the appreciation New Yorkers showed them and their fellow medical professionals.

“I can’t explain how it feels,” Edens says. “When we got to New York, we were outside and started hearing people honking their horns, pots banging and everyone cheering. We both just stood there and cried. It was so humbling.” 

From early July to mid-November, this selfless pair remobilized in McAllen, Texas, as cases surged there. Ward describes working six days a week under intense “mental and spiritual strain.” 

After a summer trip to Florida for Jamie’s brother’s wedding, they received a phone call from a friend in New York who nominated them to be recognized for their efforts.  

They learned they were selected to throw out the first pitch before Game 1 of the 2020 World Series at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, on Oct. 20. Edens threw to Ward, a big thrill for the two Dodgers fans.

“I grew up playing softball, and Ryan and I played on a coed team together,” Edens says. “I’m pretty comfortable playing catch.”

The couple came home Nov. 18 to rest and decompress, but they plan to possibly redeploy in early 2021 depending on needs across the country.

“With the growing number of cases we have heard about here in Oklahoma, it seems possible the needs could be at home, in which case we would stay here,” Ward says.

 

A Tulsa native, Hunt has called the Dallas area home since 1997. Besides his rewarding work as a freelance writer, he also works as a statistician for the TV broadcasts of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and MLB’s Texas Rangers.

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