On the front line of COVID-19: Meet Grand Concourse native and nurse practitioner, Deirdre Keane

Deirdre Keane
Courtesy of Deirdre Keane

Grand Concourse native Deirdre Keane’s journey to becoming a nurse practitioner started when she was just a teen.

At that time, her father had just died from cancer and her mother quit her job to raise her and her siblings. Though money was tight, Keane recalled that her mother encouraged her kids to work hard in all aspects of their lives. The steadfast work ethic coupled with an inspiration to work in oncology led Keane to attend nursing school in Boston.

“I really wanted to work in oncology after losing my dad to cancer, but I knew my family wouldn’t be able to afford for me to go to med school and needed a major that would give me a career straight out of college. I was very fortunate and got a scholarship to nursing school in Boston,” Keane said in an email to the Bronx Times.

After earning a bachelor’s of science in nursing, Keane began working as a pediatric ICU nurse at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM).

“I loved and still love it there. However, I wanted to be the one making the decisions,” Keane said. “I worked there for five years full time while I went to school part time at Columbia to become a nurse practitioner and then continued to get my doctorate.”

She said that she could never forget about her dream of taking care of patients with cancer, so she joined the team at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) as a pediatric ICU nurse practitioner. During this time, she continued working part time and eventually per diem at Montefiore.

“Then COVID hit. New York city was the epicenter of the pandemic and at the very heart of it, was the Bronx,” Keane said. “I had to help. So nearly every night I was not at my full-time job working as an NP at MSKCC, I was working as an RN in the pediatric ICU at CHAM.”

For the past two months, Keane has worked six nights a week in addition to attending virtual classes to earn her MBA from New York University. She recalled that Montefiore was hit “incredibly hard” during the onset of the COVID-19 crisis and some weeks at CHAM were “scary and disheartening.”

“We worked as a team and kept going though and now we are finally starting to see improvements,” she shared.

Keane said that her friends both near and far have been supportive during this time, asking if she needed personal protective equipment (PPE) or other supplies.

“Truthfully, I, personally, don’t need anything. The hospitals I work in have enough PPE to get by [and] many organizations have been incredibly generous by donating food,” said Keane, who added that her loved ones have also helped to keep her mental health in check.

To lend her help even further to the Bronx, which has the highest COVID-19 death rate in any U.S. county, with the poorest congressional district, she joined the East Bronx Democratic Group. The group had created a mutual aid fund to address the Bronx’s food insecurity issue.

“I wanted to help more but free time is still limited. However, I am a huge runner and big marathoner. I thought maybe I could intrigue friends to donate by setting up a running challenge for myself,” said Keane.

Together with the group, she created a fundraiser to raise money for grocery store cards that would go toward low-income families in the Bronx. Her goal is to run 1000 miles in the next three months, a feat that she has not yet taken on before. She aims to match each mile she runs with a dollar donation.

So far, she’s run 70 miles in the first six days.

“Just 930 miles to go,” she said.

Those interested in donating to the cause can do so at this link: bit.ly/DK4BX.

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