Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
Aubrey Balmer has served as a Family Nurse Practitioner at Angel Medical Center and Mission Hospital since graduating with her FNP in 2012. She worked in emergency medicine and urgent care for five years. Then, for the past three and half years, she ran the onsite health clinic for Harrah’s Casino offering both primary care and urgent care for employees. With New York City being deemed the epicenter for the COVID19 virus, with a desperate shortage in qualified professionals, Balmer answered the call to spend the next month in the city providing help wherever it is needed.
“If I’m honest, I didn’t think I would ever be one to risk going to New York City,” Balmer said of her decision to go. “I have a 5-year-old son. I want to be with my husband. It’s much more comfortable being at home with my boys and going for runs every day. But, for two weeks every time I opened my Bible for my quiet time in the morning it was to Psalm 91. I am going as a government contract employee, this is not an unpaid position. But the risk and sacrifice are real. And after multiple conversations, Matt and I decided that we either believe what God says, and follow when he leads us, which demands action. Or sit on the sidelines and live with the regret of wondering ‘what if.’ If there is one thing I’ve learned in my life, it is that I do not want to have regrets. I know not everyone believes in God or has the same faith that I do. But, I’m so thankful that in this historical moment in history, I will be taking part in it by bringing the sacrificial love and peace that I built my life upon and weaving it in to the lives of people who are scared and suffering.”
Balmer attended Lenoir-Rhyne where she obtained her BSN-RN. A year after graduating, she started the FNP program at WCU.
“One of the best decisions I have ever made was to become a Nurse Practitioner,” she said. “It’s allowed me to serve other people and use my innate aptitude for medicine in not only a variety of health care settings but also multiple places around the world. My husband and I hope to consider ourselves mission minded; we value using our gifts, talents and resources to serve others as one of the main reasons we have been given this life to live.”
Balmer said she has had a full life and has been fortunate in her 34 years.
“I know I’ve only been alive 34 years, but I have had a full life,” she said. “I have traveled all over the world, seeing some of the most amazing and remote places. I have such a fulfilling career in which I can assist people in becoming stronger, healthier versions of themselves. Being truly healthy is so important when you consider quality of life and goals for the future. I love that I get to assist in that. I have a great family: husband of 12 years Matt Balmer, and our son, Breck who just turned 5. I have so much support from all my family: Paul and Diane Savaiko, sister Liana and husband Larry Bolick, brother Ben and wife Rose (Mickler) Savaiko; in-laws, Ken and Bette Balmer. The outpouring of love and support from our family is more than I could have imagined. Matt and I lived in Franklin until five months ago when we moved to Boulder, Colo., to enjoy the adventure of change and the outdoor lifestyle of biking and running that we love. It was one of the hardest decisions we had ever made because we are so entrenched with our family and our church family, Discover Church. We truly loved our home and jobs. But sometimes you know God is calling you to growth. Often that is by stepping into the unknown and going by faith.”
Balmer will be working through a government-contracted travel agency who are tasked with supplying at least 800 medical providers to the city this week.
“We will be staffing tent hospitals in the five districts of the city,” said Balmer. “We will have PPE (personal protective equipment), a fully equipped mobile emergency room and some will have triage operations, others will have inpatient cubicles,” she said.
New York City has reported 68,776 cases of the virus as of Tuesday morning, with 15,333 people hospitalized and 2,738 deaths. Knowing the numbers and impact of the virus, Balmer is bracing herself for the unknown.
“They have told us to plan on working 12.5 hours a day, for 30 straight days,” she said. “They will try to recruit another 2,200 providers in the coming weeks to help, but said overall the hospitals are overwhelmed. Interestingly, with such quick mobilization there is very little information. Much of my welcome packet was unknown: we will be housed in a Marriott. My assignment and sector of the city will be determined in the first two hours after my arrival after an interview and skills screening. We will have hotel breakfast provided, lunch and dinner “to be determined.”
With the next 30 days full of risks and unknowns, Balmer said she is a mix of emotions.
“Excitement and fear elicit the same neurochemical pathways in the body,” she said. “, yes. It is 100 percent ok to be excited to go and get to work, and at the same time have tears and a deep longing to cling to your family. I’m not naive enough to think nothing bad can happen to me. I’m just not scared of it. I’m not scared of an outcome I cannot control. I happen to know from past experiences that you can do everything right, you can take every measure to be safe and protect yourself and still come face to face with life threatening situations. For me, my outcome is in the hands of the Lord. And whatever that means, I’m 100 percent fine with. There’s a strength and peace that comes in the midst of challenges, when you take responsibility for those things you can control, be it good self care, safety precautions, stringent use of PPE or hand washing, good nutrition and rest, and when you let go of trying to determine an unknown future, and just trust a God who said he has a plan for you.”
Editor’s note: The Macon County News intends to follow Balmer along her journey, providing updates as often as possible on our Facebook Page and include a weekly article and interview with Balmer during her 30 days.