Seattle, WA – The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed many events and operations on an international scale, including plans for the U.S. Army and the people who serve.
Spc. Ava Leonard, a nurse with the 47th Combat Support Hospital, 62nd Medical Brigade on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, knows this first hand. She is one of the Army medical professionals working at a mobilized hospital inside the CenturyLink Event Center in Seattle.
Leonard enlisted in the Army two years ago, leaving her job as a barista in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to follow in the footsteps of her father and brother.
“It’s kind of a family tradition,” Leonard said. “My dad was in the Air Force, and I have a brother in the Marines, so I was always interested in the military from a very young age.”
Leonard just got married the last week in March and had to cancel her honeymoon because of the outbreak.
“It hits a little closer to home because we just got married and we just got a house,” Leonard said with a twinge of sadness in her voice. “It is what it is, but we’ll get through it.”
Leonard said that despite this hardship, it’s still worth it to be able to aid in a time of need. She chose to enlist as a nurse because of her desire to care for people.
“This is the whole reason why I joined,” she said. “Not only to get a start in my career, but also to help people and our communities, and that’s why I wanted to be a nurse in the first place.”
Leonard said she feels compassion for people who are finding this time in the wake of COVID-19 Coronavirus difficult. She said her parents worry about her working as a nurse in the midst of this medical crisis.
Army units are preparing to take on overflow patients from hospitals flooded with coronavirus cases and will be treating patients without COVID-19 Coronavirus for needs such as surgery and urgent care.
“We really get to treat not just our own Soldiers but also the communities we live in and serve,” Leonard said.
As uniformed Soldiers kept their social distancing, they played light music in the background to fill the space, unusually quiet considering the size of the CenturyLink Event Center and the fact they were setting up equipment.
While the structure is a bit nontraditional, Leonard said the facility will have the same capabilities as a regular hospital. This includes labs, X-RAY and intensive care.
“I know it sounds weird coming to a convention center to get treated by army personnel, “she said. “But our focus and our mission is still the same as the nurses who are in hospitals.”
The Army is waiting on word from the State Health Department and the Federal Emergency Management Association on an exact date for when they will begin seeing patients, nor is there an exact time frame for how long the Army mobilized hospital will be in operation.
Leonard said she hopes all medical professionals, both civilian and military, can find hope throughout the uncertainty of the virus outbreak.
“Stay strong, and we will get through this together,” she said.