Local nurse shares frontline experience

For as long as she can remember, 28-year-old Abby Lorenzo of Seymour has wanted to be a nurse and recalls photos of herself from childhood, dressed up as a nurse for Halloween.

“My aunt Teri, who is my dad’s sister, works in Chicago and is a nurse and has been a nurse practitioner, and she’s really inspiring and has been a big influence in my life,” Lorenzo said. “So that’s played a part in my wanting to go into nursing, too, but I’ve always known that I wanted to care for people.”

Lorenzo is the daughter of Jeff and Susan Lorenzo of Seymour and has two older brothers, Matthew and Jordan, and a younger sister, Ally.

A 2011 graduate of Seymour High School, she was an athlete and played volleyball, basketball and softball. She also was a member of the National Honor Society, Key Club and other organizations and was active in choir and participated in several musicals.

After high school, Lorenzo attended Valparaiso University for nursing and graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in nursing, then began her nursing career at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago.

“That was a very eye-opening, right-out-of-the-gate experience for a new nurse, and I learned a lot there. Then after two years, I left and became a travel nurse,” she said. “I lived in Massachusetts for three months, then came back and did a couple of assignments in Indiana. Then I moved to Clarksville, Indiana, and worked there for a year and then came back to Seymour.”

Lorenzo has been employed at Schneck Medical Center for about two and a half years as a registered nurse.

“It’s like night and day difference between my job now and what is was like when I first started,” Lorenzo said. “It’s hard because Schneck is such an amazing place to work, but this pandemic has made it so people are leaving their bedside (positions) in droves, so we’re incredibly short-staffed right now.”

She said she and a lot of her co-workers have been working about four or five nights a week on 12-plus-hour shifts, which is a lot.

Lorenzo’s normal schedule is three nights a week, but she knows Schneck cares about its employees and is trying to do what it can, she said.

“We’ve been very blessed that people from other areas of the hospital, like from OR (operating room), are picking up some hours on our floor, as well. Plus, other people from other areas of the hospital are helping,” Lorenzo said.

She started out at Schneck in the cardiac stepdown unit, which is just a step below the intensive care unit, and when the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020, they all had to learn on the fly, she said.

“We were thrown into some things and had to learn quickly because COVID was something new, so now, I’m an ICU nurse and I’m thankful because I’ve found out that critical care is what I’m really passionate about,” Lorenzo said. “I really enjoy caring for those patients who are critically ill and helping them get back to being healthy and getting to know the families.”

The hardest days are when a patient doesn’t recover. Lorenzo said they are still reeling from a patient at the hospital who very recently lost his battle with COVID.

“There is no rhyme or reason to this illness, and it hits everybody differently,” she said. “There could be an 80-year-old with a medical history who might stay in the hospital for a couple of days on oxygen then go home, then a healthy 45-year-old loses the battle and it makes no sense.”

Being overwhelmed with COVID patients over the last year has really put her knowledge and skills to the test and has made her a better nurse in the long run, she said.

“When we have critical patients on a ventilator, and we’ve had a lot with COVID, they can be on a ventilator for anywhere up to a month or more,” she said. “We’ve had patients on vents for a long time, and you really create a relationship with the family and the patient.”

Lorenzo believes the vaccine is the best way to prevent getting COVID, and it’s frustrating to her that some people don’t believe in the science.

“It’s just the people we’ve seen coming into the hospital at this point who are critically ill, none of them have been vaccinated, and the ones we’ve been seeing on the ventilators for weeks at a time are not vaccinated,” she said.

Lorenzo said there are a couple of people in the hospital who have been vaccinated, but they aren’t nearly as ill and probably won’t stay there very long.

There are so many people out there encouraging misinformation about the vaccine, so it’s heartwarming to her to see people change their minds and decide to get the vaccine.

She said people have been dying from COVID for almost two years, and it’s sad that’s what it takes for people to make the decision to get vaccinated.

“As hard as this has been in the past two years, I definitely wouldn’t change my profession,” Lorenzo said. “I love what I do and I love caring for people, and some of my best friends are my co-workers and we’ve made it through together.”

For those who are considering going into nursing, Lorenzo would tell them it’s challenging, emotionally and physically, but it is also very rewarding.

When Lorenzo does find some spare time, she enjoys hiking, volleyball, reading and her all-time favorite passion is traveling, although she hasn’t had a chance for that lately. She’s also active in her church, St. John’s Sauers Lutheran, and to help her unwind and relax a little, she likes to bake all different kinds of cheesecakes for her family and friends.