Washington nurses paying out of pocket to help with COVID-19 crisis in India

Doctors in India say people are dying because of a lack of medical staff in hospitals and one local woman is dropping everything, leaving her family and life in Washington because of that. 

It started with a simple social media post. 

"I expected nobody to respond to be honest," said  ICU travel nurse Chelsea Walsh. 

After seeing the dire situation in India and having worked in an orphanage there years prior, Walsh decided she was going to go back, so she posted about it on a travel nurse Facebook group. 

RELATED: Seattle organization raising funds, supplies to support fight against COVID-19 in India

"My phone hasn't stopped ringing since," said Walsh. In the last couple of days since posting, she’s heard from nurses all over wanting to join her. 

"We can't perform miracles but we can try to help in any way we can, and the more I warned them that this is going to be hard the more the nurses we're like ‘let’s do this, challenge accepted,’" said Walsh.

One of the roughly 40 American nurses who’ve committed to going to Delhi, India is Whatcom County nurse Heather Forthofer. 

"I saw the video online of what it was like there and I’m just like I have to go, I just have to go. My friends are like well there’s other ways you can help you can send supplies and I’m like anybody can do that, but not everybody is able to go there and really make a difference, and I can," she said.

Forthofer was retired as a nurse, but when COVID-19 hit she jumped into action and spent the last year working around the country wherever she was needed. But this is the first time she’ll be going to a third-world country. 

RELATED: India shatters record, reports more than 412K new COVID-19 cases in 1 day

"Delhi where we're going they’re cremating over 600 bodies a day on the streets so it’s not going to be pretty, it’s probably going to stick with us for a long time, but a lot of what we saw with COVID is going to stick with us for a long time, it just comes out when it wants to," said Forthofer. 

The nurses will be working in conditions most Americans can’t even imagine, and they won’t be paid a cent for any of it. They’ll be paying for everything themselves. "My husband was like we can't afford this, and I’m like but we can make it happen, so I made a gofundme and I’m trying. But I’m going to go regardless, I have to," said Forthofer. 

"The airlines are not helping us, and there are nurses who can't afford the flight but want to come on this trip so we're trying to find ways we can get them flights and cover them," said Walsh, the trip organizer. 

To this group of nurses, dipping into their savings to be able to help people is a given. "This last year really made us all tougher and stronger than what we were before. We’re not going to be able to save everybody, but I know that we all want to try," said Walsh. 

The nurses plan to go to India for 30 days on June 1. If you'd like to help the nurses with their expenses, they've created a collective gofundme.

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