Run­ning to the fire

With Loy­ola Maryland ca­reer on hia­tus, help­ing at nurs­ing home in New Jer­sey home­town

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ed­ward Lee

More than three months and 18 miles removed from help­ing the Loy­ola Maryland women’s track and field team set a school record at the pres­ti­gious Mill­rose Games in New York City, Carly Spinnler is ex­ert­ing her­self in a dif­fer­ent — but per­haps more im­por­tant — field. Every week­end for more than a month, she has been work­ing as a cer­ti­fied nurs­ing as­sis­tant at a nurs­ing home in her home­town of North Hale­don, New Jer­sey. As of last week, the Hol­land Chris­tian Home had re­ported 63 pos­i­tive cases of the coro­n­avirus and nine deaths.

But rather than be fear­ful, Spinnler, 20, said that the ex­pe­ri­ence has ac­tu­ally strength­ened her de­sire to grad­u­ate with a bach­e­lor’s in nurs­ing and be­come a nurse prac­ti­tioner.

“I have learned that help­ing peo­ple is sec­ond na­ture for me and that I wouldn’t ques­tion it even in a pan­demic like this,” she said, adding that she will add a few more week­day shifts to her sched­ule. “It really so­lid­i­fies that I do want to stay in the med­i­cal field for the rest of my life. It’s good ex­po­sure, and even though it’s scary, it has to be done.”

Spinnler’s de­ci­sion to jug­gle on­line cour­ses at Loy­ola, take off for prac­tice runs on her own and work at the nurs­ing home does not sur­prise Grey­hounds coach Amy Horst.

“She’s really been fo­cused on car­ing and work­ing in the med­i­cal field since I’ve known her in her ju­nior year of high school,” Horst said. “So this isn’t some­thing like, ‘Oh, I seem to be good at this.’ She has this de­sire to go into the med­i­cal field. So it ab­so­lutely fits.”

Spinnler, who earned her emer­gency med­i­cal tech­ni­cian cer­ti­fi­ca­tion as a ju­nior at Pas­saic County Tech­ni­cal In­sti­tute and had been work­ing at Hol­land Chris­tian Home every sum­mer since her se­nior year at high school, said she was home for about two weeks af­ter stu­dents had been sent home in mid-March.

While out for a train­ing run on some neigh­bor­hood roads, Spinnler was ap­proached by her boss, who asked her to

con­sider re­turn­ing to the home, which at that time had one pa­tient ex­hibit­ing flu-like symp­toms and sev­eral em­ploy­ees quar­an­tin­ing at home af­ter test­ing pos­i­tive for COVID-19.

“I def­i­nitely was a lit­tle hes­i­tant at first,” she said, re­fer­ring to be­ing ap­pre­hen­sive about pos­si­bly in­fect­ing her par­ents. “I didn’t want to bring home the sick­ness to them. But we agreed that as long as I would be get­ting the right pro­tec­tion and all that, it was the right thing to do. And then I didn’t really think twice about it af­ter that.”

Ge­orge Spinnler, 67, said that he and his 60-year-old wife Kathy’s sup­port for their daugh­ter far out­weighed any con­cerns about the coro­n­avirus.

“You al­ways have that thought in your mind,” he said. “But at the end of the day, she’s a grown up, and this is what she wants to do for the rest of her life. We’re on board with what she wants to do.”

As soon as she ar­rives at the nurs­ing home, Carly Spinnler wears scrubs, a gown with a hood, a hair­net, a dis­pos­able mask over an N95 mask and gloves. She then vis­its pa­tients with re­spon­si­bil­i­ties rang­ing from feed­ing, bathing, grooming and chang­ing their clothes.

The gear and the warm room tem­per­a­tures pre­ferred by the res­i­dents make it tough for Spinnler. But she said the most dif­fi­cult as­pect is try­ing to ex­plain the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion to res­i­dents — many of whom suf­fer from de­men­tia or Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

“It’s def­i­nitely sad be­cause they really don’t un­der­stand what’s go­ing on for the most part,” she said. “They don’t un­der­stand why they can’t see their fam­i­lies. They know that it’s not right that they’re fam­i­lies haven’t been vis­it­ing them, and they have some built-up anger be­cause of that. It’s just hard to try to ex­plain to them that they’re sick or their neigh­bors are sick. I feel like that’s the worst part for me. They’re alone, and we can’t really do any­thing to help them ex­cept get a phone call. They have no hu­man in­ter­ac­tion ex­cept for us, which is the worst part.”

Spinnler called the speed at which COVID-19 can spread from one per­son to an­other and de­te­ri­o­rate one’s health “scary.” Based on what she has ex­pe­ri­enced, Spinnler said she has been be­wil­dered by the pres­ence of con­spir­acy the­o­rists who ques­tion the se­ri­ous­ness of the coro­n­avirus.

“It’s kind of an­noy­ing be­cause these res­i­dents in the nurs­ing home, ob­vi­ously they have un­der­ly­ing con­di­tions, but the rate and how fast they’re get­ting it and pass­ing away is what is really as­ton­ish­ing,” she said. “So how some­one can say that it’s fake or made-up, it makes no sense to me.”

Af­ter work, Spinnler re­moves her clothes be­hind her par­ents’ house, places them in a bag, seals the bag, and leaves the bag there un­til she can laun­der the clothes the next morn­ing. Al­though she is not self quar­an­tin­ing, she said she has not hugged or kissed her par­ents and has not seen ex­tended rel­a­tives in per­son.

Ge­orge Spinnler said that his daugh­ter has borne the weight of what she has seen sur­pris­ingly well.

“She un­der­stands that this thing is big­ger than all of us,” he said. “She’s a pos­i­tive thinker and does what is asked of her. She wants to be a healer, and that’s what her mind­set is.”

Carly Spinnler has been a pro­duc­tive mem­ber of the Loy­ola track team. At the Mill­rose Games on Feb. 8, the sopho­more mid­dle-distance run­ner teamed with seniors Kayleigh Cag­giano and Heather Mer­ri­field and ju­nior Senna Ohls­son to fin­ish the distance med­ley re­lay in 11 min­utes, 51.80 se­conds, bet­ter­ing the pre­vi­ous school record of 11:54.57 set in March 2017 by Sarah Ask­ine, Margaret Ma­cAulay, Cordelia McGinn and MaryEllen Woods.

On March 7, Spinnler, Cag­giano, sopho­more Grayce Heine­mann and ju­nior Jor­dyn Pugh com­pleted the 3,200 re­lay at the Pa­triot League cham­pi­onships in 9:04.07, which ranks as the fourth-fastest time in pro­gram his­tory.

Horst said Carly Spinnler’s run­ning abil­ity has been coun­ter­bal­anced by her rep­u­ta­tion as “a goof­ball” who­has bro­ken out into song or re­cited a Hail Mary or danced “The Car­leton” to break up the monotony of an ex­er­cise or drill.

“She knows how to get it done,” Horst said. “Her dra­mat­ics are fun, but they’re val­i­dated in the out­put. She has per­formed at a very high level.”

Spinnler’s foray into the med­i­cal field is a fam­ily tra­di­tion as her pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther was a gen­eral prac­ti­tioner and her ma­ter­nal grand­mother was a nurse. Her grand­mother ini­tially ex­pressed reser­va­tions about her pres­ence at a nurs­ing home, but has since changed her mind.

“I think at first, I was like, ‘Well, maybe she’s right.’ But at the end of the day, it’s just what I love to do,” Carly Spinnler said. “I love to help peo­ple. It’s one of my fa­vorite things, and it’s my job.”

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LARRY FRENCH

Loy­ola Maryland’s Carly Spinnler is work­ing as a cer­ti­fied nurs­ing as­sis­tant at a nurs­ing home near her home­town in New Jer­sey dur­ing the pan­demic.

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