New York

Women’s History Month: The Little-Known Story of the Black Angel, a Nurse Who Treated Tuberculosis Patients

new york — as we celebrate women’s history monthThere are lesser-known stories about nurses on the front lines of a pandemic, but this one is not COVID-19.

In the early 1900s, tuberculosis was reported to account for nearly 18% of all deaths in New York City. This is the story of how a black nurse stepped in to care for a patient, and it introduces one of the last living “black angels”.

“I was 16 when I got here, worked as a nursing assistant and trained at Seaview Hospital,” Virginia Allen said.

It was 1947. staten island hospital. Seaview, which he opened in 1913, was founded to treat patients suffering from tuberculosis, a terrible disease that claimed the lives of millions.

“I was too young to be fearfully sophisticated,” Allen said. “A lot of people wanted to forget about TB because it was devastating to so many people.”

By 1929, nearly all white nurses refused to care for their patients.

“Most of them worked in administration, but they never really worked with patients on the ward,” Allen said.

Therefore, black nurses were recruited from all over the country. About 300 frontline caregivers have become known as “Black Angels.”

“This gave them the opportunity to work in a non-segregated environment and use the skills they were taught, which was reason enough to come here,” Allen said. “It gave black nurses a bigger, better chance to live comfortably.”

Seaview Hospital

Seaview Hospital

Allen, now 91, spent 10 years at Seaview and worked on the children’s ward.

“Administrators wanted young women at the time. They were unmarried and could work long hours. says Maria Smilios, author of “That means each of these women had about 20 of her patients, which is a huge number. And the average care to treat a tuberculosis patient could be 180 minutes.” there is.”

Smilios’ book will be published in the fall.

“Nurses had to document what was happening in the wards every day. It’s pain and anguish and suffering, page after page,” Smilios said. “Virginia loved children. She used to talk to me about hugging them and reading to them.”

At its peak, the facility had nearly 2,000 patients, almost double its planned capacity.

“When people were fleeing, when people were terrified and rightfully afraid, it was a very dangerous time, and they had the courage to intervene and do the right thing. And they saved people,” Stacey said. Toussaint, local historian and owner of Inside Out Tours.

Toussaint includes the story of the Black Angels as part of her Black and Women’s History tour. This story was the first time she had met in person.

“As far as I am concerned, there is no greater honor than being able to talk to someone who is living history and being able to trust their story.

In 1957 at Seaview, he helped Dr. Edward Lobitzek develop one of the approved drugs for the treatment of tuberculosis.

“Patients were going through trial and error. Doctors wouldn’t have found that, the cure, because the nurses would have given them to them,” Allen said.

“At the time, these residents and patients were quarantined and quarantined on the island,” said Matthew Levy, CEO of the. NYC Health + Hospitals/Seaview.

Seaview was closed as a pandemic facility in 1961. It is now a rehabilitation and nursing facility. But the past still lives there. The Surgical Pavilion has rooms filled with original artifacts from the Black Angels era.

“Virginia is an angel, a real-life angel, and indeed, everything we do every day is a reminder of her ability and love of caring for people,” Levy said. .

“Sometimes it takes my breath away to be still here and to be able to talk about it. It’s very emotional because I’m speaking for so many people, not just myself. But I know I can do it.” I’m proud and happy…that’s it,” Allen said.

Allen is still living in a nursery dormitory that has been converted into housing for the elderly. Women’s History Month: The Little-Known Story of the Black Angel, a Nurse Who Treated Tuberculosis Patients

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