'She's a super nurse': ICU nurse heads to NYC to help fight pandemic

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Six-year-old Maximillion, 4-year-old Cruz and 2-year-old Dia won't have their mom around for at least two months — for an important reason.

Leona Hernandez is one of many people around the country stepping up to help in the time of the pandemic. The ICU nurse, who graduated from the University of Minnesota, will head to New York City to help fight the disease in one of the biggest COVID-19 hot spots in the country.

“We call her the superhero,” said Tony Hernandez, Leona's husband. “She's a super nurse.”

“There are so many people who are dying,” Leona Hernandez said. “We talked about, 'Should I just stay here and wait until the need is greater in Minnesota?' […] but one thing that I think pushed me over the edge is the fact that the need is so great in New York.”

In New York City, there's a desperate scramble to get more healthcare professionals on the ground. As of Saturday, there were more than 63,000 confirmed cases and 1,905 deaths from COVID-19 in the nation's largest city, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“It feels awful to be leaving my family. I know that I also won't be putting them at risk,” Leona Hernandez said. “I know I'll miss them, but I also can focus on fully caring for patients while I'm there.”

She'll be gone for at least eight weeks, and the travel nursing program will pay for transportation, housing and Leona's wage.

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“I think all nurses have experienced being short-staffed at some point, but the thought of being very short-staffed during the pandemic is something that I have never personally experienced,” Leona Hernandez said.

The Hernandez family is stocking up on personal protective equipment for Leona to bring to the big city so she's safe as she helps others get better.

“We are incredibly proud of her courage and her dedication,” Tony Hernandez said. 

Leona leaves in about a week.

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