Help on the way: Student travels to U.S. pandemic epicenter to provide healthcare support

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Kourtney Rumback in her EMT uniform. (Photo Courtesy of Kourtney Rumback)

As the COVID-19 pandemic blasts through the nation, a Kansas State student has hit the road to provide healthcare support to some of the most hard hit communities in the Northeast. Kourtney Rumback, sophomore in biology and psychology, is an EMT working for Midwest Medical.

“Myself and a group of 10 more people from a company I work for — we’re traveling to [the] New York/New Jersey area, and we’re just going to help with some of the responses up in that area to kind of just relieve some of the high demands … up there,” Rumback said.

The group left bright and early Thursday morning. They were met with rough weather in Iowa and had to stop, setting them back a day, but Rumback said that it is better for them to take precautions so they get there safe and healthy in order to provide support.

She said she is feeling both anxious and excited. Rumback has never been to New York, and she’s excited to be able to help people and see what she’s capable of. She is nervous about the situation and said it might be very overwhelming.

Rumback said she’s traveling with people she didn’t know before Thursday morning.

“I have an awesome group — they’re all really fun and they are all very, very skilled and knowledgeable about everything.”

Rumback’s parents back home are also nervous, but Rumback said they’re extremely supportive and hope that everyone gets back home safe.

Kourtney Rumback and her friends pose beside an ambulance. (Photo courtesy of Kourtney Rumback)
Kourtney Rumback and her friends pose beside an ambulance. (Photo Courtesy of Kourtney Rumback)

“My parents are worried about me, but in a good way, because they know that this experience is going to be such a major part of developing my future career that they’re very excited,” she said.

Despite traveling 1,500 miles to provide healthcare services in a place she’s never been before, Rumback is still continuing with school.

“I’m still taking all my classes and stuff and I’m working with my professors … and they’ve been so great with just working with me … they’re going to be really flexible with my test times and they’re being really, really amazing with the whole situation and helping me.”

Rumback said she will be in the area for at least two weeks.

Rumback has been an EMT for about two years. She first started as an EMT in her hometown of Oakley, Kan., which runs a basic life support unit, she said. With Midwest Medical, she gets to work with higher levels of EMT’s, like paramedics, who are have a wider scope of abilities and skills.

“That’s something really interesting to think about because when I was running just with our BLS service back at home —we don’t have very many resources … we can’t give them medicine, we can’t start IVs on them, we can’t do any of that,” she said. “So … if you run into a car wreck, you have to just improvise the best you can. You follow your protocols … you have to really be sharp on your knowledge on what you’re supposed to do to perform the best life-saving practices you can at that time with what you have.”

Rumback said that being an EMT has inspired her to work towards becoming an emergency room doctor.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to work in medicine,” she said. “I was a CNA since I was like 16, and I worked between the hospital and nursing homes and stuff. And one of my teachers from middle school — she offered an EMT class and I just thought that that would be a really good way to see a whole other side of medicine.”

Rumback urged people to take the pandemic seriously.

“It’s affecting everyone right now, but like if we all just team up, we can get over it…we can help so much, if we just get work together,” she said.

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Hi there! I'm Julie Freijat. I'm the copy chief and deputy managing editor of the Collegian. In the past, I've served as an editor on the news and culture desks and worked closely with the multimedia staff. I love science and technology, hate poor movie dialogue and my favorite subreddit is r/truecrime.