SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Page Blanton says for her, a passion for helping others manifested itself at a young age. A “big heart” and a gift for “making people feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations” brought her to Memorial Health’s cardiovascular intensive care unit.
As a registered nurse, Blanton has seen it all but says her positive attitude is what gets her through some of the hardest days. Many of them have happened in the past year during the coronavirus pandemic.
“You have to be okay and completely separate out how you feel in the moment and how you’re going to have to handle it when you go and exit the room and live the rest of your life. It’s a lot,” said Blanton of her job.
As the country watched northern states — like New York and New Jersey — battle an explosion of new COVID-19 cases, Blanton says she had two choices: “twiddle her thumbs” or step up to help. She chose the latter.
Four days after volunteering to help northern coronavirus patients, Blanton found herself at Beth Israel Medical Center’s COVID unit in Newark, New Jersey. Two hours after arriving, she was given her first two patients. At the time, she says there were around 500 other patients in the hospital.
“It was so much worse than any video, any interview, any article, any doctor’s write-up, anything you’ve ever heard,” explained Blanton. “It was so much worse and it was devastating.”
Feeling a little scared and a little anxious, Blanton says she fought through her apprehension and got right to work with a team of people who all spoke different languages. It’s possible Blanton’s personality may have helped bridge the language barrier.
After her eight-week assignment at the hospital, Blanton says the number of COVID-19 patients decreased to less than 10.
Everyone who knows Blanton — and everyone who meets her — can immediately see that her fearless attitude is trumped only by a contagious sense of humor.
“I would do anything, I would park illegally and get 5 tickets again. It was a lot of fun,” said Blanton of her time in New York City. “Great growth and I’m so glad I did it and I would do it again.”
When Blanton returned to Memorial Health, that bubbly personality returned, too.
There’s never a dull moment with her around,” said Abby DeSesso, the director of critical care at Memorial Health.
Blanton says she makes that possible with small gestures, especially geared towards her patients. She is constantly writing them notes, she is singing to them and she is holding their hands as they take their last breath.
That kindness proves to be a good distraction, especially now when darkness seems to be taking over.
“We’re the last person they’ll ever see sometimes or talk to and so that’s pretty important and a great responsibility that we have,” said Blanton. “What a huge opportunity it would be to be there for somebody who would be alone.”
Blanton’s team can’t help but notice the selfless attitude. News 3 was there when co-workers gave her a bouquet of flowers and a bag with all her favorite treats.
People like Memorial Health Nurse Manager Amber Schieber say they hope Blanton took the gesture as an opportunity to think about herself.
“She is always celebrating the patients, she is always doing for others and so just doing something nice for her is really important,” said Schieber.
It’s a reminder that when times are tough and when hope seems lost, at least one remarkable woman is still walking her light inside Memorial Health.
“You have to laugh at even the smallest, most craziest things because if you don’t, then it’ll overwhelm you,” said Blanton.
WSAV News 3’s Kelly Antonacci is featuring four Remarkable Women every Tuesday of March, Women’s History Month.
The finalists were chosen from more than 100 nominations from people throughout the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry.
The winner of WSAV’s contest will be announced on April 1 and will be considered for the “Nexstar Woman of the Year” award.