52 Faces
Socorro graduate and current nurse takes COVID head-on

Former Socorro resident and SHS graduate Terry Lomanitz spent the last several months as a nurse in Manhattan.

Terry Lomanitz is a Massachusetts native who moved to Socorro in 1976 and graduated from Socorro High School. He and his wife Jeni recently spent three months in Manhattan, Terry as a contract nurse in the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak.

When you moved from Massachusetts to Socorro, what was that culture shock like?

It was totally different than from being in Massachusetts. People were speaking Spanish. It was totally bizarre. But kids are super adaptive.

Your life as a youth in Socorro, what did you do? What were you into?

I did pee-wee football, then junior high I did football, I did track, I did basketball. Then in high school I did track.

So in high school you ran track, and you’re obviously an intelligent human being so what were your circular interests in high school?

I was a math geek. I liked history class.

Was there any point in high school you knew you wanted to go into the profession you’re in right now?

No, absolutely not.

So what was that progression like for you then? When did that snap for you that you wanted to be in the medical field?

So I went to Tech. I got through my junior and then I quit. I got married, had a baby and all that good stuff. That didn’t work out, and so my family is all from Massachusetts and now they’re all in Florida. So I came to Florida, became a master mechanic for Nestle.

What did you did there?

I was a compressor mechanic.

Did you like doing that?

I loved it.

What took you from a job that you liked at Nestle towards being a nurse?

So I have two girls. My wife has two girls from previous marriages. Both my girls, their freshman year in high school they came to live with us for a year when my wife and I first got together. So our second daughter comes to live with us her freshman year in high school and has a stomach ache and ends up with appendicitis. We take her to the hospital, finds out she has appendicitis and needs surgery so we end up in Tampa. They do surgery the next day and when they do surgery they nicked her intestines. So we spent 11 days in the pediatric ICU. She was 13 or 14.

You’re watching your own kid sitting in the ICU, did something kind of snap for you there? Is that when you knew you wanted to go into the profession you’re in now?

Yeah. I knew nothing medical, and I had felt like I just signed her death warrant. I signed the paperwork not really understanding the risk.

So daughter ends up in the ICU, and everything worked out okay?

She’s actually an ER nurse right now.

So what was your next move?

So the next semester I actually started nursing school classes.

And this was in Florida?

This was in Florida. I stayed with Nestle, I stayed at the plant as long as I could and then you know, and some point you’ve got to quit and just do the program, so that’s what I ended up doing. I graduated, and then my wife went right behind me.

Where did you graduate from?

Pasco-Hernando State College.

You both graduate, and what was your next move from there?

I went to the hospital here in town. I was a volunteer there, and then I was a tech there during school. Then I worked on Med Search, and then I ended up in the cardiac unit as the night charge. Jeni went to Tampa and ended up in one hospital in pediatrics and then another hospital. When her youngest graduated we decided it was time to travel.

Where did you travel to from there?

We went to Missouri a year and a half ago, Jefferson City. I feel I should have worked for the chamber of commerce.

What was appealing about Jefferson City?

It’s extremely friendly. The weather was beautiful because it was still end of summer, beginning of fall. There are lots of outdoor activities to do. Beautiful scenery.

Did you feel like that was a place you wanted to keep your family for the long run?

No. My nephew lives there. He’s lives in St. Louis. He’s an aviation engineer for Boeing.

So what was your next move after Jefferson City?

We stayed in Rio Rancho, and worked at downtown Presbyterian in Albuquerque.

What were you working there as, nurses?

Yeah, were there as nurses. I worked PCU, progressive care unit and Jeni worked the pediatric unit.

What did you like about working there?

Of course family is there, that was the best part. There is great food. We just had green chile tacos tonight.

You have four kids together. What led you and Jeni toward thinking at what point and what date thinking you should go to Manhattan and help out?

So we came home at the end of 2019. I took January off and Jeni went back to work. I signed a short-term contract with a hospital here in Tampa. That’s when COVID was in New York City, so we said let’s just take a chance.

What was that conversation like between you and Jeni?

I was the beginning of March, so it was just hitting. So when we got there in April it had peaked. They cancelled her (Jeni’s) contract the day we got there.

So what did she end up doing?

Just staying with me. She ended up being house mom, because we shared a place with four other nurses. They were all the age of our girls.

Reading your blog, it did get a little heavy. What hospital were you at and what were your first days like there?

New York Presbyterian Colombia in Manhattan.

What were your first days like there? What were you expecting going in?

You know, I didn’t really know. I’ve been a nurse for almost 10 years. When I left here they had just gotten their first COVID patient. I didn’t really know. I was like they got COVID, it’s like the flu, that’s what I’m hearing. So when I went to New York City it was the entire hospital was COVID. All seven hundred and whatever beds they had. Every floor, every unit was a COVID unit. They have shut down the OR and they made the OR a stand-alone ICU unit with 220 extra beds.

Was that a lot to walk in to?

Oh yeah, because the staff there were terrified. Twenty percent of the staff had initially gotten sick because nobody knew the precautions against it. They didn’t understand it. They would say okay they have the symptoms, but if they didn’t have the symptoms they weren’t really testing them.

We just didn’t know then, right?

The results would take 48 to 72 hours, so you’re not gowning and gearing up for the flu and pneumonia and stuff, so with pneumonia and stuff you have precautions but not like this.

So you’re living in an apartment of Manhattan, at the epicenter of COVID. How did the following weeks go? How did it affect you mental and emotional state?

It started to wear on me. Basically you only wear the gear when you’re in that room. In New York City it was you put on that head gear ad you wear that head gear all day long. You change your gown and gloves between patients, but you don’t change that other stuff. You’re wearing a surgical mask, goggles, a special N95 respirator and a surgical mask over that, and then a face shield over everything, it’s mentally daunting.

What’s the positive you took out of this?

To really appreciate what you have.

Was this a bit easier having Jeni around you?

Oh absolutely. I couldn’t have done it without her.

You’re both back in Florida. What’s your plan?

I don’t really want to grow up yet. I don’t want to commit to a real job so I’ve signed another short-term contract here.

What do you and your wife and kids do for fun?

For fun? We kayak. We’ve done a couple of deep sea fishing trips. We go to the beach because we’re in Florida. We’re kind of outdoorsy.