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Wisconsin nurse on the New York frontline of pandemic, then diagnosed with COVID-19

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(WAOW) - Elizabeth "Buffy" Riley has been a nurse for decades, practicing in Hayward and Cumberland. But in April, she decided to take her skills to the COVID-19 frontline in New York.

"I had watched Governor Cuomo pleading for help." So, Buffy answered the call.

She was placed at Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn, treating COVID-19 patients in a makeshift ICU. Many of those patients were fighting just to stay alive.

Buffy said, "Easter Sunday was the toughest day because that day we had seven codes... crash carts were being pushed down hallways, and pushed down hallways."

That day, she said three patients died before 11 a.m. Those memories still bring up strong emotions for the nurse.

"Every day was just trying to figure out how you're going to be able to keep your patients alive," she said through tears.

And while she was treating patients, her own health was put at risk. Buffy said there wasn't adequate PPE.

"PPE should not be something that you wear five days in a row." She said when she wasn't working, she kept her size-too-big mask in a brown paper bag.

After nearly a month in New York, she returned back to Hayward in late April. Shortly after, she tested positive for COVID-19.

She's been in isolation since April 23, and her tests continue to come back positive.

While she's happy to stay home to keep others healthy, the last month has been difficult for Buffy. She said, "I really would like to get back to work and get back to my life."

But despite the hardships, Buffy continues to show gratitude for the support given to her.

On her way to work one morning, New York first responders lined up to clap for her and her colleagues.

And back home in Wisconsin, friends, family and even strangers sent her care packages during her stay in Brooklyn.

"I don't think I could have gotten through as long as I did without that kind of support," she said.

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