A couple of weeks ago, I recounted that I spent the most bizarre sporting experience of my 22 years of writing, which included a 90-minute delay due to thunder and lightning, with Kyle Montague the Islander Football Statistician for several years. It turns out that Kyle and Kelly Montague’s daughter Madison Montague, who I have known and covered in this column for several years, has been an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Nurse at Lennox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, New York for two years. Here’s her story.
Madison was an outstanding athlete at Coronado High School, the defensive center back for the Islander Girls Soccer Team which won three CIF titles during her high school career and a standout on the Islander Softball Team. Her senior year, Montague hit .540 and had at least one hit in every game Coronado played that season. During the fall sports season, she served as one of the team managers of the Islander Football Team.
After graduating from CHS, Montague matriculated to Villanova University, where she majored in Nursing with a minor in Sociology. “I decided to go there because the Nursing program is really good,” Madison explained. “They have a 98 percent first-time passing rate for their graduates for the nursing exam. It was just a really good program and I liked that it was a big basketball school. I wanted to do fun things when I was in college and they won two National Titles while I was there. After I graduated, I did a Critical Care Fellowship at Lennox Hill and I was able to start work in the ICU right away. I graduated in June 2018, passed the nursing test, moved to New York in August and started working.”
When asked about the legendarily high cost of living in New York, particularly in Manhattan where she lives, Montague explained that she had two roommates. “One of them is a nurse and the other is in finance. We’re doing all right.”
Montague described how the COVID Crisis unfolded for her in March 2020. “That was the first time I had COVID patients. We converted several different floors of the hospital into ICUs. I got floated to the COVID ICU and I had one patient. I remember being really scared. By the time my shift was over (her shifts run for 12 hours, from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.), we had so many admissions, the entire floor was full. I remember thinking, ‘What are we doing here?’ We ended the night with three intubated patients. That was followed by three solid months of just COVID patients. We were in a ‘learn by doing’ situation. They talked a lot about trying to flatten the curve, which didn’t happen too much. Every hospital in New York was really overwhelmed. We were just thrown in there. We did a lot of learning together, among the nurses, doctors, and the physician assistants. There was new information coming out every day. Luckily, Lennox Hill doesn’t have mandatory overtime, but I was working a lot of voluntary overtime and working between three and five shifts a week.”
Even that wasn’t enough to fully staff the hospital, which was running at more than 100 percent capacity. “We had our own staff and also we got a lot of travel nurses. We had people coming from everywhere, Florida, Texas and Utah.”
Montague just volunteered to assist the Intermountain Healthcare System in Utah for a couple of weeks as a thank you from the State of New York for their work earlier this year. When the COVID cases spiked in Utah, Madison was one of 29 nurses from New York who spent time in Salt Lake City to assist those staffs. Ironically, Montague has only received an Antibody COVID test, which proved negative, to this point. She returned to her home in New York Sunday and she had to quarantine for 14 days and will go through her first full COVID test in five days.
Montague spoke about how her high school sports career might helped prepare her for her professional COVID-19 challenges. “I think the teamwork of it. This whole thing made me realize how important our team at Lennox Hill is. On any given night, my ICU is a 12-bed ICU, but during COVID, we had 12 beds and we turned another four beds into ICUs. At any time we would have 15 nurses between the ICU and the Step Down Unit. Usually on a normal night during COVID, we would have three patients each, one doctor and one physician assistant. We (the nurses) do a lot of management on our own. The doctors are there for emergencies, writing orders, and talking things through with us. The nurses do the constant hour-to-hour monitoring and assessment. It’s our job to let the doctor know if something is going on. The doctors came from everywhere to work in the ICUs. Our anesthesia team would be reassigned to be attending physicians for an ICU and we had residents fill in and help out. It was kind of an all hands on deck situation.”
I always thought New York was a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Montague has other thoughts. “I love it. I love living here, but I miss Coronado a lot too. And I miss my parents. During COVID they did the clapping every night (to thank first responders). Every single person in my life, even people I hadn’t talked to in years, reached out to make sure I was okay. I realize how lucky I am to have so many awesome people in my life.”
When asked if she was still in touch with any of her Islander teammates, Montague said, “One of my former teammates Gabby Quinlan is a nurse in Texas now. I texted her about a month ago when things were getting busy for her. And Maddy Hopson texted me this morning. It’s cool to look back on the sports days.” And really great that Madison Montague is trying to make things better on the COVID front line.