SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — All is calm and open on 2-5 at St. Joseph’s Health Hospital. During the height of the pandemic, it became the COVID unit.

“Oh, it didn’t look like this at all, no,” explained RN Nurse Manager Michele Trait. :There was a lot of duct tape and plastic. You know it was, the windows actually had blowers in them. We didn’t have windows. For months, we wouldn’t see outside the windows in the hallways.”

Trait has been a nurse for 31 years.

“I’ve only been here for seven months,” said Claira Race, an LPN that started at St. Joseph’s Health Hospital in the middle of the pandemic.

“It was a shock. It was very overwhelming at first. Very overwhelming,” Race said.

While Race had second thoughts, the support from members of her team like Michele kept her going.

“Every time you go into a room, you put on this gown and gloves and everything,” Race said. “So, say you go into a room, you immediately need something, you have to take all of that off and then go and get what you need and come right back. So there would be so many occasions, where you stick your head out into the hallway and just whoever’s close ask them to go and grab you something. Everybody was always super helpful.”

There are moments that stick with them.

“It was such a joy when people could go home and be discharged home,” Trait said. “Patients were so grateful.”

Even during the hardest times.

“When you can go home at the end of the day, just feeling like you did a good job and you made a difference in somebody else’s life that day,” Race said.

This fall Race will begin school to become an RN, continuing to make a difference in the lives of patients.

“It really is a calling. I think nurses understand that. It’s just something inside of us that you know that that’s what you’re meant to be here to do.”

Michele Trait, RN Nurse Manager at St. Joseph’s Health Hospital