Heroes of the Pandemic – Craig Jorden Jr

The Man Behind the Mask

Lt. Craig Jorden, Jr. has been in the United States Air Force Reserve for eleven years and is a Registered Nurse (RN). When not on assignment with the Reserve, Lt. Jorden works at the VA Hospital in Tampa, FL. He is also a Clinical Instructor at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) and Jersey College.

Given a two-day notice, Lt. Jorden was deployed to New York City on April 20th with an unspecified return date. Upon arrival, his first assignment location was the Javits Center. It is a 760,000 square foot convention facility which had been temporarily converted to a hospital with capabilities of treating 800 patients at one time. Within two weeks, Lt. Jorden was reassigned to provide services at Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital.

For Lt. Jorden, one of the most challenging aspects of the COVID-19 crisis is the affect it is having on the patients. “Patients are scared. Some can’t talk because they are in bed with a tracheotomy. Those who can talk though are thankful for us being there to help them” he said. “The virus is devastating”, he added.

Leaving his wife and son behind during the worldwide crisis in order to serve his country by providing care for others has been challenging as well. As a father and husband, Lt. Jorden understands his role as a protector of his family. At the same time, he realizes the commitment he made to his country comes with personal sacrifices. He is grateful his family is supportive of his service.

Even amid the crisis, life goes on. Lt. Jorden is a few months away from completing a two-year program to become a Psychiatric Mental Health Practitioner. Working 14-15 hours days in the Emergency Room at Bellevue while keeping up with course work has not been easy but quitting is not an option for Lt. Jorden. He has set his sights on this goal and will see it through to graduation in December.

I asked Lt. Jorden if he sees any good coming from the pandemic. “It has changed my perspective and outlook on life. We can’t take things, like our families, for granted. We can’t get so consumed with work or school that we don’t spend time with our families. Nothing is promised.“ Lt. Jorden also indicated his awareness of small, underlying health issues has been heightened due to COVID-19. Patients with previous underlying health issues have been the most at risk. This has made him more focused on things such as wellness check-ups which he will be implementing for himself and his family moving forward.

When asked about his thoughts on lockdown measures, Lt. Jorden thinks it has helped prevent the spread of the virus, especially in heavily populated cities such as New York. He said he can’t help but wonder if the lockdown had been implemented sooner, if more lives would have been saved. That certainly was not a statement of blame on his part; simply a personal reflection.

Lt. Jorden is for phased re-openings. “The country can’t stay closed forever. Safely reopening is beneficial for the economy” he said. According to Lt. Jorden, everything is still closed in New York City and the streets are empty. “It looks more like a scene from a movie (I Am Legend) than real life when you’ve been here before and know what the City usually looks like.”

As reopening occurs, he recommends everyone take steps to protect themselves. “Clean the surface of the table if you go to a restaurant. Put your utensils in hot water before using them. Wear PPE (personal protective equipment), etc.” He also recommends that everyone remain careful around the elderly. “People can be asymptomatic and not know it. You don’t want to give this virus to your grandparents” he said.

Lt. Jorden’s opinion is that it will be two to three years before there will be a level of “normal” again in the medical field. Until a vaccine is found, he believes we will live with a certain level of COVID-19 precautionary measures.

The Lyfe Magazine would like to thank Lt. Craig Jorden, Jr. and all personnel from every branch of our United States Armed Forces for your service and personal sacrifices.