Darien native travels the world to help as a nurse: ‘We all have a social responsibility’

DARIEN — It’s hard to imagine the challenges of executing what would be described as “frontline healthcare,” but Darien’s own Emily Fawcett not only lives it, but does so in many time zones.

A woman whose resume lists more credentials under the volunteer heading than even her professional experience, she continues to collect amazing international credits that center on her desire to help people heal.

“I have been interested in international travel and international medical mission work since high school,” said Fawcett, 31, who now calls the Upper East Side of Manhattan her home.

Others in Darien, however, know her as a young woman who devoted eight years to EMS Post 53 while growing up in town, where she racked up participation in more than 300 ambulance calls while at Darien High School.

“Post 53 for sure had an influence in my passion to give back, help communities, and interest in the medical field,” said Fawcett, a Darien native.

She was back in town last month speaking at the Darien Community Association about her experiences helping with medical relief efforts in Haiti following a devastating earthquake there, in a program focused on “Choosing Hope Over Despair.”

Now, Fawcett has again left the country — this time to the Barbados — where she is assisting with vaccination work amidst a population that doesn’t have the access more common in this country.

“If I can help another location with their surge, provide them my expertise and what I have learned, and provide hope that they will get through it — well, that’s what life is all about, isn’t it?” she said.

Having gotten COVID herself at the beginning of this year, following months of working directly with hundreds of patients at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital, it’s a wonder she’s able to focus on the positive.

“My hospital and New York City is now way on the other side of that,” said Fawcett, whose full-time job has been as a registered nurse at Lenox Hill for the past 10 years. There, along with serving in a range of units as part of an adult medical-surgical “float” team, she is also a teacher and mentor to new graduates, nurses and students.

Fawcett’s philosophy of helping is linked to her own mother’s background. Sharon Fawcett has been a nurse at Norwalk Hospital for 41 years, where she has often worked with orthopedic patients and, most recently, has served on the medical floor designated for COVID patients since the pandemic began.

“I am extremely proud of Em and honored that she is my daughter,” she said. “I am in awe of her dedication and her ability to give to those who are in desperate need of medical help.”

Sharon noted that her daughter’s love of medical work began in high school as an EMT, and she’s watched that passion continue over the years.

“I can’t imagine her doing anything else,” she said, explaining how they share a unique and very powerful bond together based on their individual experiences as frontline workers.

“She gives me so much inspiration as we talk about our experiences as nurses, especially during the height of COVID,” her mother said.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing, Emily Fawcett did a minor in African studies, also studying abroad in Kenya while at college.

She said she always knew international work was a passion of hers and found that in action with Crossing Thresholds, a small nonprofit based in Port Chester, N.Y. that has been her main vehicle for volunteer work.

“I’m their community clinic coordinator and run medical clinics in the Kibera Slum in Nairobi, Kenya, for them,” she said. She also serves on its board and, prior to COVID, visited the country two or three times a year.

“I also have a strong passion for disaster response (and) emergency response,” she said, as well as general humanitarian crisis work, “because if I were in that situation I would want someone to be able to help me and my community.”

Other initiatives she’s been involved with include spending a month aboard the U.S.N.S. Comfort assisting with the Venezuelan migrant crisis, and also lending her time and effort to medical aid amidst the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

“I have a strong belief that if you are in a position to help others, to give back, to help other communities that are different than your own, then we all have a social responsibility,” she said. “We can all add our drop to the bucket.”