October 5, 2022
A Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) student and alumna have each written books that provide — in very different ways —startling, life-and-death scenarios.
“The Forgotten Heroes, COVID-19 From the Lens of the Respiratory Therapist,” is a first-person account by BMCC Respiratory Therapist alumna Domonisa Hurley (Prindle House Publishing, 2022). In vivid detail, the book chronicles her experience and that of others delivering critical care as registered respiratory therapists at a hospital in New York City, the first epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Adventures of Andrew Bailey” by Political Science major Lukas Florczak (Barnes & Noble Press, 2022), is a work of fiction that loosely follows his own travels and is informed by his experience in the U.S. Marine Corps. It tells the story of a former Marine who witnesses the murder of a U.S. federal agent in Bangkok, and uncovers a dangerous international plot that takes him all over the world.
“The Forgotten Heroes” is a story decades in the making
Domonisa Hurley’s first-person account, “The Forgotten Heroes” relates to the COVID-19 pandemic that hit New York City in 2020 — but the book had been brewing for decades.
Hurley earned an Associate in Respiratory Therapy degree at BMCC in 2003, but before that, in 1993, she had earned a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts at Stony Brook University, the State University of New York (SUNY). Her mother had been diagnosed with cancer that year, and in order to care for her at home, Hurley completed training as a Certified Nurse’s Assistant (CNA) at the New York City Housing Authority Education
A few years later, she completed Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training at the Center for Continuing Education and Workforce Development at BMCC.
This was a painful time, but it reset Hurley’s goals, and changed the course of her life. After her mother passed away, Hurley continued working as a CNA and EMT, and steadily built her educational credits toward a career in health care.
In 2013, she earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration, specializing in Emergency and Disaster Management, at Metropolitan College of New York.
In 2020, she earned a Doctoral in Public Health degree at Capella University in Minnesota, through a remote program she completed while working as a registered respiratory therapist at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York.
“My focus was respiratory therapy and public health, with a specialization in epidemiology,” Hurley says. “I finished my doctorate during the pandemic, and they needed experts who knew how to manage critical care for people needing assistance with breathing on oxygen devices. This is where the respiratory therapist’s role became essential.”
Her studies in emergency and disaster management came into play during that time. “I was part of an essential department, so we always had to be ready; to make sure we had our equipment, tanks and supplies in place,” Hurley says.
She also led staff development at Brookdale Hospital on topics such as the role of the respiratory therapist in response to incident codes, and about a year into the pandemic, started her own business, I.M.P.A.C.T. City Consulting Incorporated.
She now provides respiratory therapy services to hospitals and coaches other respiratory therapists on how to become contractors within the field.
Her book, “The Forgotten Heroes, COVID-19 From the Lens of the Respiratory Therapist,” provides a first-hand look at what it was like to deliver care to patients whose lungs were targeted by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in hospital settings that resembled triage tents in a natural disaster, she says.
“I had asthma as a child growing up in Harlem and I watched my mother die of cancer, but nothing prepares you for what we saw in the early days of the pandemic in New York City. I am committed to continue educating the medical community and public sector in life-saving techniques and advancements in respiratory care. I want to help make us ready for the next public health threat, and to help raise the quality of care for respiratory patients everywhere.”
Raising the spirits of fellow Marines through music, travelling and returning to college evolves into a novel.
In Fall 2021, Political Science major Lukas Florczak entered BMCC. Like many college students, his higher education had taken a few turns. He had attended Nashville State College from 2019 to 2020, and before that, completed three years at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, studying music composition.
In 2015, Florczak enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served four years, stationed in Little Creek, Virginia and San Diego, California. His service took the form of playing keyboard for a Marine Corps rock band, Soundstrike, that raised the spirits of troops across the country.
The band delivered performances in Detroit, Nashville, Iowa, Illinois and other states. They took part in Veteran Appreciation football games between the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers, and provided outdoor concerts on Coronado Island, near Los Angeles.
After four years in the Marines, Florczak transitioned to active reserve status. He spent some time travelling, moved to New York and enrolled at BMCC.
“I learned a lot from being in the military but I wanted to move my life in a different direction,” he says. “After transitioning from active duty, I spent 10 weeks going to nine different countries and discovered a passion for different cultures. When I returned to the U.S., I tried to figure out how to combine travelling with my love of serving my country — and how I could do that not from a military standpoint but perhaps from a civilian standpoint. That’s when I realized that majoring in political science, especially international politics, would be a good move for me.”
Once Florczak was back in New York, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and he started his novel in lockdown.
“I had never written anything before in my life and what started as me writing down some stories from my travels turned into a fictionalized story in which the plot is fiction but the places are real. I sent the manuscript to friends and family to see what they thought of it.”
“My stepdad Brian Dalton did the cover design,” he says. “It’s taken a little over two years to edit and refine the book. It’s gone through a lot of drafts but the plot remained the same. The editors at Barnes and Noble would send me their notes chapter by chapter, and I entered the edits.”
Florczak, now in his second year, is attending BMCC on the GI Bill and is active in the BMCC Veterans Resource Center.
“Master Chief Wilfred Cotto in the Veterans Resource Center is a great leader and all-around good person for everybody there,” says Florczak. “Teacher-wise, I would say my favorite so far has been Professor Geoffrey Kurtz, who knows a lot about American history and teaches political theory.”
Once he graduates from BMCC, Florczak plans to earn a bachelor’s in political science within CUNY at either Hunter College or The City College of New York. His long-term goal is to gain employment at the U.S. Department of State, and work his way up to becoming an ambassador.
Meanwhile, he has started another book. “In this second Andrew Bailey adventure, the main character chases down a ring of diamond smuggles across Europe. In order to keep his friends together, he must prevent one of them from seeking revenge.”
If you are a BMCC alumnus or alumna and would like to connect with BMCC and tell your Start Here, Go Anywhere story, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (212) 220-8020.
Highlighting the achievements of students and alumni supports BMCC’s strategic goals including Strategic Goal #6: Strengthen BMCC’s Role in a Thriving NYC and as a Leading Community College Nationally.
“The Forgotten Heroes, COVID-19 From the Lens of the Respiratory Therapist,” is a first-person account by BMCC alumna Domonisa Hurley of her and others’ experience as respiratory therapists in New York City, first epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic
“The Adventures of Andrew Bailey,” by Political Science major Lukas Florczak, is a work of fiction that follows the adventures of a former Marine who uncovers a dangerous international plot.