Invicta FC veteran Alyse Anderson has been working in the same Michigan hospital for the past four years, but for all her experience and training, nothing could have prepared her for the COVID-19 outbreak that has touched every community across the United States.
While she typically works in the cardiac unit as an EMT (emergency medical technician), Anderson was soon pulled into extra duty working with patients suffering from the deadly coronavirus, which has already killed more than 217,000 people worldwide.
All healthcare workers understand there’s a certain amount of risk attached to their jobs but Anderson revealed when speaking to MMA Fighting that she was brought to tears the first day she was transferred into the ward where COVID-19 patients were being treated.
“I didn’t think I would be as scared as I was but I went in the bathroom and called my mom and I actually started crying,” Anderson said. “Because I was scared to go into that unit, especially with how unprepared we’ve been.”
According to Anderson, her hospital like most healthcare facilities around the country were woefully unprepared for a deadly outbreak of this size and magnitude.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) has been in short supply throughout almost every hospital in the United States and Anderson faced the brunt of that in her job almost immediately after the first patients arrived with symptoms likely related to the coronavirus.
“I feel like at first it was more just chaos of not knowing. Because the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) kept changing the regulations almost everyday,” Anderson explained. “One day they were giving us a paper bag with a just a regular mask, not a N95 or respirator, just a regular face mask. The note in it said use this for the entire week, in every patient’s room, and at the end of your shift it goes in this bag and you get one a week. Before all this happened, I was going through like six or seven of those a shift. Because it’s proper protocol after each room to throw that mask away if they were in droplet precaution situation.
“So to be told to wear this mask in every single room and then you want me to put it in this bag and I have it for the entire week? So if I work three 12 [hour shifts] and I don’t get another one? Then people started making masks because then you could wash them. Then everyone started donating them. Then the next week it said no fabric masks allowed in the hospital. It was just so much confusion.”
If that wasn’t frightening enough, the lack of actual testing for COVID-19 at the start of the outbreak in the United States left healthcare workers wondering how many patients they were treating who were afflicted with the disease without any actual confirmation.
“We had patients who were still waiting two weeks for their results back,” Anderson said. “You have so many healthcare workers working around them not knowing if they do or don’t have it. Just because the results are taking so long to get back.
“They’ve been super tight about who’s getting tested, which is why there’s such high criteria to get admitted just to get tested. That’s why we’re seeing so many of our units closed down because everyone that’s coming to the [emergency room], they’re trying to send home without getting tested and just quarantining at home.”
Because there’s not enough testing coupled with healthcare workers constantly being exposed to COVID-19 patients, Anderson’s biggest fear is spreading the disease to other people — most notably her parents.
“The thing that terrifies me the most was bringing it home,” Anderson said. “I live part time at home with my parents and my dad has a history of really bad skin cancer with a throat disease so he’s in a high risk category. He’s been taking all the precautions, hasn’t left his house so when I come home and go straight in and wash my scrubs but when I was told that I had to work in that unit, there’s just so many unknowns about how you can get in contact with it and give it to somebody else.
“That’s what I was most nervous about, especially because we don’t really know how long the incubation period is for symptoms.”
The fight to battle back against the coronavirus so Americans can return to some sense of normalcy continues as many states are starting to roll out initiatives to lift stay-at-home orders that have kept people in their houses for much of the past month.
The same can be said for businesses after so many have been shut down in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. Count the UFC among those businesses looking to get back up and running with a show planned for May 9.
UFC president Dana White has said numerous times that the company will take every precaution possible to protect the fighters. Athletes are expected to undergo testing for COVID-19 and many have stated publicly that they will self-quarantine after the event just to be sure.
Anderson is definitely conflicted when it comes to fights starting back up while the pandemic still rages on. She wants nothing more than to get back into the gym to work with her teammates but Anderson also has first-hand account at the real devastation caused by this virus.
“I know what it’s like to put in a fight camp, especially the people like Ashlee Evans-Smith went to London and had to go back home. That’s devastating to them,” Anderson said. “I feel like it’s OK for them to be upset. I would be so upset. But it’s also being on the frontline, seeing how scary it is, makes me almost more depressed because I see how bad it is. I don’t know when it’s going to be safe for them to just let everything go back to normal.
“I miss training so much. I could cry thinking about it now. You do what you can at home, but it’s not the same being with you team and being on the mats with your training partners. I see both sides of it.”