Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Sandra Greyeyes overcame a fear of flying to become a flight nurse working out of the San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington.
As part of her job, Greyeyes provides life-saving medical assistance and evacuation services aboard an AirCare helicopter or airplane during each working shift, hopping across New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma and Arizona.
With the onset of the pandemic, many of the people being shuttled or otherwise serviced by air were ill with COVID. Greyeyes, 59, is now one of them.
Greyeyes is fighting for her life at University of New Mexico Hospital, where she had been flown earlier for treatment of the same virus that had already taken the life of her mother.
Greyeyes’ daughters have set up a GoFundMe page to help the family defray the cost of mounting medical bills.
“My mom loves her job and told me that it’s very challenging, but also very rewarding,” said her daughter Jenny Phillips of Phoenix. “She likes the excitement of getting on scene and taking care of patients right away.”
A registered nurse for 25 years, Greyeyes caught her family off guard when, 12 years ago, she told them about her desire to take to the skies.
“She enjoys flying now, but initially it wasn’t that way,” said Phillips. “She was afraid of flying for many years, so it was a surprise to me and my sisters when she decided she was going to become a flight nurse.”
When the COVID pandemic began, Greyeyes fully understood the dangers and risks of the virus. “It’s not like other patients hadn’t had viruses before, so she felt comfortable doing her job,” said Phillips. “The coronavirus was no different. It was just another illness that people had.”
On Nov. 21, Greyeyes began to feel ill. She was coughing, had body aches and a fever, said her daughter.
The next day, she got tested for COVID. When the results came back positive, she isolated at home and took precautionary measures, sterilizing surfaces in the home she shared with her mother, Cora Greyeyes, 89, and her father, Dave Greyeyes, 87, both of whom also tested positive for the coronavirus.
The day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Sandra Greyeyes took a turn for the worse and her breathing became more labored. Simultaneously, her mother was experiencing similar problems. The two women were admitted to the San Juan Regional Medical Center.
Meanwhile, Greyeyes’ father, who had previously been admitted to the Northern Navajo Medical Center, had been transferred to San Juan Regional. All three were now in the hospital fighting the virus.
On Dec. 3, Cora Greyeyes passed away. She and her husband had been married 63 years. Then, on Dec. 16, Sandra Greyeyes was flown to University of New Mexico Hospital, where she remains in the critical care unit, though stable, said Phillips.
Greyeyes’ father has since been released from the hospital.
On Christmas Eve, Phillips and her sisters, Cherilynn Tsosie of Portland and Ashley Tsosie of Albuquerque, shared a joint phone call with their mother, aided by a UNM Hospital nurse who held the phone to the ear of Greyeyes, who was unable to speak.
People who wish to help the family pay for accumulating medical bills can make a donation in any amount at GoFundMe.com and search on the name Sandra Greyeyes.
In the meantime, the sisters are praying for their mother’s recovery so she can return to what she loves doing – taking care of patients instead of being one.