Tue | Jul 14, 2020

‘You don’t give up on your patients’ - Jamaican long jumper takes leap of faith on NY COVID front line

Published:Thursday | April 23, 2020 | 12:21 AMDaniel Wheeler/Gleaner Writer
Nolle Graham – a masked crusader against the new coronavirus.
Nolle Graham – a masked crusader against the new coronavirus.

Former national long jumper Nolle Graham has enlisted as a foot soldier in the battle against COVID-19 in New York, armed with scrubs, mask, and lots of heart in curtail the alarming outbreak of the new coronavirus.

Graham opted to pursue a career in orthopaedics after retiring from athletics in 2008. She graduated with a master’s degree in physician assistant studies in 2017 and has been working in that role in Manhattan since then.

Primarily assigned to orthopaedics, the magnitude of cases in New York, the epicentre of the United States’ coronavirus explosion, pushed her to switch lanes to general medicine in providing care for COVID-19 patients.

New York has recorded 251,000 COVID-19 infections – 30 per cent of the nationwide total of 850,000 – and accounted for nearly 15,000 casualties, or a third of the 47,000-plus deaths in the US.

DEATH BLOW

Graham says that the day-to-day responsibility of treating infected patients has been difficult.

“It’s been very rough, to say the least. I’ve had patients who have passed away, unfortunately, and I’ve had patients who have been discharged as well,” she told The Gleaner.

“It’s hard to deal with families who are so worried ... . At times, it’s not always good news.”

The increasing threat has caused some hospitals in the area to be overwhelmed with patients.

Her daily routine includes checking on oxygen levels of patients who often have respiratory difficulties. In her daily interactions, she says that she feels adequately protected thanks to the influx of gear the hospital has been receiving.

The former national junior record holder and Seton Hall University Hall of Famer says that she has been able to draw on the many lessons learned during her athletics career to keep the faith.

“Athletics teaches you to be disciplined ... . You want to get them home,” she said. “You want to do the best while they are there, give them the best treatment, and that takes discipline.”

Although her role as an essential worker requires her to be outdoors, she noted that social-distancing guidelines and self-quarantining by New Yorkers have flattened the curve although the number of daily deaths is still high.

Graham has been in constant communication with family members back in Jamaica, and as restrictions tighten on movement back home as coronavirus cases surged to 252 yesterday, she is imploring locals to exercise safety protocols such as the wearing of face masks.

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com