Just a few months prior, Daniel Pentimone fully expected to be celebrating the completion of his Master of Divinity degree from Midwestern Seminary with family and friends, just like any other graduate. Instead, on May 1 he spent the day at a Brooklyn, N.Y., hospital emergency room battling the COVID-19 pandemic and ministering to patients and medical staff.
Pentimone, who grew up in the Kansas City area, earned a nursing degree from Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley campus in 2012, and began working at Belton (Mo.) Regional Medical Center shortly after. Ever since, he’s served as an emergency room nurse.
He shared that it was his love for the stories of past medical missionaries like David Livingstone and Hudson Taylor as well as a desire for ministry through medicine that caused him to enter the nursing field.
As the pandemic swept the United States, word spread that his hospital might send him to assist in New Orleans but that never came to fruition. The idea, however, stuck with him, and he began to deeply consider if he’d be willing to go and serve at a hospital in a COVID hotspot.
Pentimone explained, “I realized, ‘Yes! Why shouldn’t I?’ I have the skills, experience, and flexibility to serve in a hard-hit location. More than that, I’m a Christian, and shouldn’t God’s people be the first to help out those in need?”
Initially, Pentimone heard that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was asking for nurses to help, as the city was overwhelmed with patients from COVID-19. So, he applied directly to two hospitals, which didn’t pan out, and then he decided to apply through a third-party organization that was deploying hundreds of nurses to the hotspot. He applied and, boom, he was on a plane to New York within 48 hours.
Pentimone departed for New York City on April 5, started work on April 10, and soon realized the task and the need were enormous, saying he was assigned to an inner-city emergency room in the heart of Brooklyn. He worked 46 shifts in 48 days—each of which lasted 12 hours and were all at night.
Such a schedule meant he and his coworkers all had very little down time, and sleep was always a precious commodity. Pentimone spent 80-to-90 percent of his shifts working in the ER, but he also floated to some of the “temporary” ICUs.
“There were so many COVID patients that they didn’t have enough room in the regular ICU, so they had to create these temporary units,” Pentimone said. “These units were lined with intubated, ventilated patients—scores of them—separated by curtains. Some of the nurses had little or no ICU experience, and the nurse/patient ratios were high. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but the need was so great. In the middle of a crisis, you figure out a way to make things work.”
Pentimone shared that the situation upon his arrival was abysmal, and he saw things he never would have imagined. “For a while, they were constantly paging ‘Code 99’ overhead, which is the equivalent of ‘Code Blue,’ or that someone’s heart had stopped. So, scores of people were dying every night I worked.”
Additionally, he said it was surreal to be in the makeshift ICUs, which looked just like the pictures on the news. Rows and rows of patients were lying in beds, on ventilators, unconscious, or barely alive. He said, “It was a spectacle of misery and death in many ways, and when you see that, it’s a really powerful reminder of the shortness of life, especially when you see people in their 40s that weren’t expected to make it.”
Even though he was only originally scheduled to work in NYC for three weeks, he ended up spending seven weeks there. His last day in Brooklyn was on May 29, and he believes the experience was a blessing.
“The experience really allowed me to live out my faith,” Pentimone shared. It enabled him to demonstrate “Christian love in action, and more than that, to care for individuals’ spiritually.” He added that patients coming into the ER with COVID-19 were often frightened, but he was able to share encouragement from God’s Word and pray with some of them.
He also had high praise for his coworkers saying the level of teamwork and comradery was at a level he’d never experienced before. “We were all there to complete a mission,” Pentimone said, “and we all looked out for each other.” This included dropping everything to help one another keep the patients alive.
As his experience in NYC ended, Pentimone said he was ready to get home and eager to return to his home church, Summit Woods Baptist Church in Lee’s Summit, Mo. The most difficult part, however, was coming back to a quarantine and going from constant action and chaos to nothing happening.
In the end, it was love that spurred on Pentimone to action. “I love to study theology and doctrine, and I’m grateful for my time at Midwestern Seminary,” Pentimone said, “but I think that, as Christians, we need to recognize that everything in the Christian life stems from love.
“Going to NYC was a unique opportunity for me to love God and others,” he continued. “At the same time, now that I’m home, my core calling remains the same: to love God and others. And that is something I’d encourage all believers to consider as well.”
So, while Pentimone didn’t have the opportunity to participate in commencement activities at Midwestern Seminary, neither did his classmates—as the school abided by local authorities’ health guidelines and shut down all activities for the semester due to the pandemic.
Instead, hospital coworkers celebrated his accomplishment with a surprise party on their unit with an ice cream cake, and Pentimone knew there was nowhere else God wanted him to be that day—sharing the love of Christ through his medical giftings and ministry preparation obtained at Midwestern Seminary.