NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Aina Togiai said she felt a bit drained after working her first shift at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital on Monday.
Considering Togiai had just flown in from Lehi, Utah, it was understandable.
Togiai answered when the hospital put out a call for reinforcements to its front-line health care workers.
She left behind her family - still grieving the passing of her father last month - and hopped a flight to a state she had never been to help people she doesn’t even know.
She plans to be here for 15 weeks, helping the 18 or so respiratory therapists on staff at RWJUH care for patients on ventilators.
Her friends and family gave her a car caravan parade before she left Utah, complete with balloons, signs and a camera crew from the local NBC affiliate station.
Although they called her a hero for traveling more than 2,000 miles to care for ICU patients, she is just thankful she is lucky enough to be able to help others in their time of need.
“I absolutely love what I do for a living,” Togiai told TAPinto New Brunswick via email Monday night. “I love the satisfaction I feel when I can help someone feel better - that can come in the form of a breathing treatment or as complex as getting someone off of a ventilator (life support).
“But to be able to have a part in someone's life that can help them be or feel better is a feeling nothing else in this world can compare to. It is undeniably thee most rewarding feeling. After talking to RWJ's director, I got a good feeling to come to NJ, that I would fit in and would be an asset as well as learn new skills.”
RWJ and Saint Peter’s University Hospital have been under siege since COVID-19 began to sweep across Central Jersey and the rest of the country last month.
In New Brunswick alone, 1,080 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Middlesex County officials. The death toll is at 37. Countywide, those numbers are 11,062 positives and 402 deaths.
Togiai may maintain her modesty, but Lyric looks up to her mom.
“It’s an emotional thing because she is my hero,” Lyric told KSL-TV. “Sorry, I don’t want to cry. It’s part of God’s plan for sure. She’s going to help so many people.”