To show our gratitude for T.J., we gave him $10,000 and gift packages for every nurse in his department, and then his favorite singer Dave Grohl surprised him with a live serenade (watch the full segment here).
We followed up with T.J. after the show to learn more about how this E.R. nurse focuses on the good during times of crisis.
Jimmy Kimmel, Dave Ghrol, and T.J. Riley on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!
T.J.: My name is T.J. Riley and I’ve been a nurse for 7 years. My first year, I worked as a psychiatric nurse and I’ve worked as an ED (ED = Emergency Dept.) nurse in Jacobi Medical Center (a level 1 trauma center) for the 6 years since. As an ED nurse in the Bronx, I see a lot of crazy things, as well as some really beautiful ones.
T.J.: At first, I was so afraid that I was going to get Covid and that if I got it, I would give it to my husband. Then I got it and he contracted it from me. I was worried that we would both get critically ill and need to be hospitalized, but thankfully, we were able to recover at home.
Now, the hardest part is waiting this out. I don’t know when this crisis is going to end and what signals the end but I am very anxious for this to pass. I miss going to restaurants, to parties, and just generally doing social things. Thankfully, I get to see people at work. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for people staying in their home, working from home, and only going out for essentials.
T.J.: I don’t think so. It has been difficult seeing the things that I’ve seen over the past couple of months, but there’s always a glimmer of hope at the end of the day.
T.J.: I’ve been playing lots of video games and reading up on Zen Buddhism. I’ve also been trying to be more creative.
T.J.: I’ve been inspired by the community. The Bronx, NYC, New York State, and the United States—everyone has shown us so much support. I’m a nurse and I got to be on the Jimmy Kimmel show and meet Dave Ghrol. I’m getting a 10K gift from Life is Good. When I go to work, I no longer feel that I am a lone person in a hospital doing a job. Instead, I feel that the community is behind me, supporting me in the work I do. It feels like a symbiotic relationship, and it’s amazing to see so much goodness in such a dark time.
T.J.: First, Freddie, my husband has been amazing. He took care of me when I was sick, then he got sick because of me. He has been awesome throughout this whole experience.
Second, my parents have been super supportive throughout my whole life and they helped me when I was sick, too. From bringing me groceries and leaving them outside my door to nightly Zoom calls, they have been there for me every step of the way.
Third, my coworkers are the best people to work with and I am so lucky to enjoy their company during this global pandemic—I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else during this time.
Also, Life is Good, Jimmy Kimmel, and Dave Grohl—this has been a once in a lifetime event and it feels amazing.
And lastly, the Bronx. The Bronx has been so supportive and treating us very well. We get letters from the community, food donated from local restaurants, and church groups creating these little boxes filled with goodies. The Bronx is beautiful and remarkable.
T.J.: I knew that I was going to speak to Jimmy Kimmel, so my mind was ready for that. I was nervous, but I had some time to wrap my head around the idea. However, when Dave Grohl came on my screen, I completely forgot everything. Hearing him sing took me right back to being a gay teenager in my room, listening to Foo Fighters and Nirvana. This music helped me get through some pretty difficult times in my life and I just… completely lost my shit. There have been very few times in my life where I felt that surprised and ecstatic. It was awesome.
T.J.: About 6 months ago, I came across a quote from Corita Kent. She was a nun and a painter who made some really beautiful pop art. This quote has been helping me keep things in perspective: “Love the moment. Flowers grow out of dark moments. Therefore, each moment is vital. It affects the whole. Life is a succession of such moments and to live each, is to succeed.”
T.J. Riley, E.R. Nurse, Jacobi Medical Center, The Bronx, NY