Nursing major Karalyn Gallella ’20 had already played her final game in a Worcester State University basketball uniform when the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head, cancelling the seasons for five of the University’s 20 varsity athletic teams. Gallella was wrapping up the last of her coursework and finishing her clinical rotations in preparation for walking across the stage at the DCU Center in May to receive her diploma.
Instead, however, Gallella is back in her hometown of Tewksbury, Mass., completing the final semester of her senior year remotely, and working directly on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gallella works as a nursing assistant in the float pool at Beth Israel Lahey Health in Burlington, Mass. As a member of the float pool, upon arriving at the hospital, Gallella is sent to whichever floor or unit requires extra assistance. Recently, however, she has found herself sent to the COVID-positive units more regularly than anywhere else. “(The hospital) feels like a different place because of what’s going on in the world today,” she says.
Some of the lessons Gallella learned on the basketball court have translated directly to her job at the hospital during the pandemic. “On a team, you learn how to work well with others to get to a common goal,” she says. “This is similar to the pandemic. Everyone is doing everything they can to keep themselves safe, while also helping others fight this virus and defeat it.”
“Karalyn is a terrific example of a student-athlete using strength, determination, leadership, and her Worcester State experiences to bravely work on the front lines during the pandemic,” says Karen Tessmer, head women’s basketball coach and associate athletic director. “I have no doubt she’s doing it with the same kindness and compassion I saw in her character as a teammate. I couldn’t be more proud of our current and former women’s basketball players who are working in all areas of healthcare today.”
Gallella’s inspiration to become a nurse came from her mother, Pam, who is also a nurse in the same hospital. Pam works in a COVID-positive unit.
“When I grew up, I wanted to be just like her, and that included being a nurse,” says Gallella, whose cousin Megan is also a nurse on a COVID-positive floor at Lowell General Hospital.
“I’ve been able to get through (the pandemic) because I’m not in it alone. I have co-workers to talk to about it, and, of course, my mom, as well as my family. My mom has been a great help because she has been in this career for so long, so she can help ease my nerves,” she says.
After volunteering at the hospital in high school, she knew she wanted to study nursing in college. She got her nursing assistant job after her freshman year, and never looked back.
“This experience has not changed my decision one bit,” she says. “No one could have seen this pandemic coming, but my responsibility as a nurse is to take care of everyone in need, and this doesn’t make it any different. Being a part of this has shown me that I picked the right career. It has definitely been scary, but it’s rewarding knowing that I am helping fight this virus.”
Gallella says her top takeaway from the experience is the strength of all of the hospital’s workers. “It’s tough knowing that by working there, it’s possible to contract the virus from the patients, but everyone has stepped up and isn’t backing down,” she says. “It’s amazing to see everyone working harder than ever. Also, I think we hear a lot about how many new cases there are and how many deaths occur each day, but it is rewarding to see firsthand how many people are able to recover from this virus.”
Gallella is extremely grateful to everyone who has helped her get through the current difficult times. “I would just like to say thank you to those who are following the guidelines and staying at home as much as possible. We are working hard in the hospital to fight this pandemic and everyone is helping to fight it by stopping the spread.”
“I would also like to say thank you to all the other doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and housekeeping for everything that they are doing during this time. Lastly, I would like to say thank you to the other workers who are working in the essential businesses because no one ever talks about the sacrifices they are making. We are all working very hard and together, we can get through this,” she says.
Originally published on the Worcester State University Athletics website.
If you or someone you know is a current or former Worcester State student-athlete working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact Sports Information Director Curtis Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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