In an emotional and gut-wrenching interview during Tuesday’s Cuomo Prime Time, ICU nurse Carley Rice shared with CNN host Chris Cuomo (who tested positive for the coronavirus) how, despite seeing a career’s worth of deaths in just a few days, her faith gave her the strength to carry on and that “this is what God wants me to do.”
Leading into the segment, Cuomo pointed out how the virus wickedly robbed families of the closure and left them unable to say goodbye to their loved ones since they couldn’t be by their side. This was why Rice was on the show, because she used technology like FaceTime to connect patients with their families over the internet and was there for them in their final moments.
“Thank you for being one of the angels among us. And I wish the best to you and all your brothers and sisters doing God's work through your community,” he told her. After telling Rice that “so many families are going to be given a gift by you that nobody else could,” Cuomo said he was “sorry you are in the position.”
In her response, the Albany, Georgia nurse explained that she was “led here” by God. “This is my journey and this is what God wants me to do, so I will do it with my faith and my head held high, and do what I need to do for you all's family and my family and the community,” she said.
“You know what, I knew you were going to say that,” Cuomo added. “And do you know why? Because every person I talk to in your situation, it's like it's got to be something genetic where you have a quality in you that just allows you to care for other people in a way most don't.”
When talking about what it was like emotionally to be so young and be surrounded by so much death caused by “the beast,” Rice said she had her good days and bad days, but “I handle it because of my faith and my support system at home. My husband and my family and friends. I honestly could not get through every single day without them.”
As emotions began to catch up to her, Rice told Cuomo she was sorry. “Sorry? Listen, you are the best of us,” he responded.
“Every FaceTime call that you make by somebody's bedtime, where you give a family an opportunity to look at their loved one, are you aware of what you are giving them as a gift,” Cuomo asked touchingly.
After Rice humbly said she hoped to give her patients and their families “peace and comfort,” Cuomo told her that what she was giving them was a gift. “What you are doing with those families, Carley, I am telling you, it is a gift for people and they'll remember it the rest of their lives.”
The transcript is below, click "expand" to read:
CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time
March 31, 2020
9:31:18 p.m. Eastern
CHRIS CUOMO: All right. Look, I'm telling you, the death toll can only go in one direction and it's going to go in leaps and bounds. So, yes, the number of nearly 4,000 people having succumbed this virus is very scary. But, your going to see more of it. Accept the reality of where we are and what it takes to get past it.
If there were any other illness, usually the dying would be able to see loved ones. I don't know if you dealt with it in your own life. But I have in my family. And that's one of the most important moments in someone's life, where you get to have that closure of saying good-bye. And with this virus, that's being robbed from so many families, so many are dying alone in quarantined units.
Why? Because we have to keep others safe. I mean, that is the reality. But it is harsh. And it's so hard on people's hearts, imagine that. And for families, but also healthcare workers. And that's why people like my next guests are doing all that they can to help and provide comfort.
I want to introduce to you Carley Rice. She is a critical care nurse at a hard-hit hospital in Albany, Georgia. First of all, thank you for taking the time. Thank you for being one of the angels among us. And I wish the best to you and all your brothers and sisters doing God's work through your community.
CARLEY RICE: Thank you for having me. I really do appreciate it.
CUOMO: Now, I've watched you guys work your magic and I've seen what you have to absorb of people in pain. And how you provide not just for the patient but for the loved ones. Now, you are put in a unique situation, where you may be the only person that can be with somebody. What is that like for you?
RICE: It's a lot of pressure to begin with. It's overwhelming, but it's, it's my duty as a person, as a nurse. I took an oath to take care of these patients from their mind, body, and soul and that's what I'm doing along with everybody else that I'm working with. It's heartbreaking.
CUOMO: You are very experienced and you are getting more and more than you ever imagined by the hour. But are you also young. How hard is it for you emotionally to see people who should not be ready to die? And the desperation that I know that you see and the helplessness, how do you handle that emotionally?
RICE: I have good days and I have bad days. It's very hard to see someone close to your age in there fighting for their life, completely healthy and the virus, the beast has taken them down so quickly. I handle it because of my faith and my support system at home. My husband and my family and friends. I honestly could not get through every single day without them.
I just get so emotional about what we have to see like, with me being so young, I didn't ever think that I would see this am of deaths all at one time. I mean, you think about it throughout your nursing career, you’re going see a bunch of them. But all at one time, it's, I don't know how to explain the feelings that I have for it, I guess. Sorry.
CUOMO: Sorry? Listen, you are the best of us. So many families are going to be given a gift by you that nobody else could. And that is so sad and it was tragic and it is wrong that that is put on you, but that is why we call you guys heroes.
And I know that it doesn't end with you at that bedside. You have to think about what you are bringing home to your husband, a young family, your loved ones day after day and with the equipment and I know you guys feel lonely. I know you are calling the virus the beast. I am hearing that all over the country. And I know you guys feel like are you not sure if people get what you're up against.
We get it. We get it enough, God willing to stay home and keep our asses on the couch so that you can do your job saving the rest of us. And I promise you the people in my business get it and they will push people in power to make sure have you what you need, because you are doing everything for us. I'm just sorry you are in the position.
RICE: I'm not. I was led here. This is my journey and this is what God wants me to do, so I will do it with my faith and my head held high, and do what I need to do for you all's family and my family and the community.
CUOMO: You know what, I knew you were going to say that. And do you know why? Because every person I talk to in your situation, it's like it's got to be something genetic where you have a quality in you that just allows you to care for other people in a way most don't.
But even now, when they keep saying, the apex is coming. We haven't seen it yet, the curve is going to get steeper. It's going to get worse. What does that look like to you day-to-day in terms of your fear? And what does that do to you emotionally and internally in terms of how you preparer each day?
RICE: Each is different. Some you've had death while you're going home to your house to go to sleep when you come back, people are gone. The fear I have is we won't be able to do enough. We try and we try. We're the fixers. And we're not able to fix everybody.
And it is very hard and I just pray for our community. We're such a smaller hospital compared to the big ones in New York and we're using our resources the way that we should. We have what we need, but eventually, we're going to run out of space and we'll have to rely on the other communities to be able to help us and other hospitals and stuff. And I just pray that each patient is taken care of the way they need to be taken care of and we have everything that we need to.
CUOMO: Well, it should be a prayer from you, but it should be a promise from the rest of us. Because that's what this time is about. I'm talking to you for a reason. There are people in bigger hospitals that are doing the same thing but you matter just as much. Every facetime call that you make by somebody's bedtime, where you give a family an opportunity to look at their loved one, are you aware of what you are giving them as a gift?
RICE: I hope I'm giving them peace and comfort. That's my main goal. I will do my best to keep the patient comfortable no matter what. But, I'm also supposed to take care of their loved ones even if I can't see them or touch them or give them a hug. They're always in my prayers. They're always going to be in my mind no matter what. The facetime just gives me another chance to connect with them and to let them know that they’re not alone, their family member is not alone. I will be there no matter what.
CUOMO: It means so much. It has to mean so much. I hope that that gives you a measure of solace. I know there are so many mixed emotions for you of what you can control and what you can't and is it enough and why does it have to come this way? But you don't determine who lives and dies. But you do have a huge hand at how it happens.
What you are doing with those families, Carley, I am telling you, it is a gift for people and they'll remember it the rest of their lives. I thank you and I want to stay in touch and you let me know what you need and God bless your husband and your family. Stay well. We need you.
RICE: Thank you. Appreciate it.
CUOMO: Carley Rice. Albany, Georgia. [Rubs nose] I can touch my face, I'm already sick. It's amazing what they're doing for us. Can you imagine not being able to say bye to a loved one? Whew. Think about it. And then think about what you can do to help make something like that less likely to happen.