Helping Brooklyn breathe easier

Jessica Gunter (left) and her 7-year-old daughter, McKinsey, receive fond farewell wishes from Diana and Adam Treviño of Treviño Funeral Home. Gunter, who worked as the funeral home’s office manager, is now helping in the fight against COVID-19 on the front lines in Brooklyn, New York.

BEEVILLE – A local woman has headed to the Big Apple to join the fight against COVID-19.

Since moving from Rusk to Beeville two years ago, Jessica Gunter has worked as the office manager at Treviño Funeral Home, where she also has been in training to become a funeral director. But it is her background as a respiratory therapist that will be an integral part of a COVID-19 rapid response unit from Caliburn International, which will be assigned to a 1,000 bed off-site hospital established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Brooklyn, New York.

“We will have the capability to do oxygen therapy, initiate ventilators and do all of the life-saving techniques available in a hospital in this off-site unit,” she said.

Gunter admits to being a bit nervous and anxious about her mission. However, she believes that God has led her to this task and that he will protect her.

“It felt like a God-given direction,” she said. “He’s very faithful, and when he led me into the funeral industry, I didn’t know anything about it, and he’s taken care of me and put me with great Christian people who guided me, and I feel the same way about this. He’s already led me to a great Christian organization.” 

Gunter’s arrival in Brooklyn April 12 comes during a time of great need. According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, as of April 13, the city recorded 106,813 positive cases of COVID-19 across all five of its boroughs. Of those cases, 28,035 were in Brooklyn alone.

But she is undeterred.

“The way I look at it is, no matter how I go back into the health care field, I’m going to be exposed, and I just feel the greatest need is there,” Gunter said. “With the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) and precautions, I can do the greatest amount of good in New York.”

Gunter will work with the team for eight weeks. Then she will spend two weeks in quarantine before returning home to her husband, Jon, and their daughter, McKinsey.

In addition to missing her husband and daughter while she is away, Gunter said she will miss her coworkers at the funeral home.

“It’s home,” she said. “They’re family now. This isn’t a job for me. It’s family.”

The feeling is mutual, according to Diana Treviño, who is one of the chief executive officers at Treviño Funer Home.

“She was our right arm. We miss her even when she’s gone on the weekends,” she said. “The doors are going to be open when she comes back, whenever she’s ready.” 

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