Martinsville dialysis nurse returns from third volunteer tour in a COVID-19 hotspot and is up for more

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COLLINSVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — A Collinsville woman is back home from her latest trip to help people in the middle of COVID-19 hot zones.

“We got this message, asking for volunteers, you know, to go to the COVID hotspots. They were being overwhelmed,” said Tonya Waddell, the nurse, describing when she heard the first call for volunteers back in April.

In April, Waddell packed her bags and headed for Newark, NJ. Coronavirus patients were suffering from Acute Kidney Injury (AKI), a side effect of the virus that, if gone untreated, can lead to kidney failure.

It was a different scenario than what Waddell at her job at Fresenius Kidney Care in Martinsville.

“It was unbelievable, you know, the difference in it,” Waddell said. The coronavirus was running rabid. Lots of patients, like two-hundred positive patients were in one hospital.”

That first stint in Newark, however, didn’t dampen Waddell’s spirits. Afterwards, she went to Boston and, most recently, Chicago.

“It just kind of fires your spirit up, to think that you’re helping you co-workers, patients, you know, family, you know because these patients couldn’t have visitors, so you were kind of at their bedside with them,” Waddell said.

This type of passion isn’t a surprise to those who’ve worked with Waddell for years, like Ayme Currin.

“She told me, she said ‘Ayme, this is why I became a nurse. I felt like this is what I’m supposed to do is help people in need, and they’re really struggling there,'” Currin said, describing her first conversation with Waddell on being called to volunteer.

Waddell left five kids at home. All are older, the youngest being 13, but Waddell also would leave her mother, who has been suffering from lung cancer.

Waddell says having coworkers fill the void she left behind while volunteering meant the world to her.

“They were very supportive and without Ayme I probably wouldn’t have survived,” Waddell said.

“She is such an asset and a wonderful person,” Currin added shortly after.

Waddell says the cities she’s already visited are beginning to handle their caseloads without the need for volunteers, but she’ll be the first one to accept the call if and when it’s made.

“If anyone was to need me I’d be willing to go again,” Waddell said.

Waddell also wants to stress the importance of pandemic precautions. Masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and social distancing are a few ways Virginians can all but ensure the Commonwealth is able to pull out of this pandemic sooner rather than later.

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