Archdeacon: Former WSU athletes seeing ‘the devastation’ of COVID-19

Taylor Schweickart in the PPE gear she wears during one of her shifts swabbing patients at the drive-through COVID-19 testing site set up outside her hospital in Los Angeles. She said some 400 to 600 people a day are being tested at her hospital, which is overflowing with COVID patients. Los Angeles is the new epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Taylor Schweickart in the PPE gear she wears during one of her shifts swabbing patients at the drive-through COVID-19 testing site set up outside her hospital in Los Angeles. She said some 400 to 600 people a day are being tested at her hospital, which is overflowing with COVID patients. Los Angeles is the new epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. CONTRIBUTED

Now medical professionals, three graduates put their lives on the line as they deal with pandemic.

They’ve all seen people in stores and clubs, standing outside restaurants and attending basketball games, meetings and church while refusing to wear masks. They’ve seen people letting their guard down and gathering in large groups.

They’ve even heard people denying the severity of COVID-19. And then there are those so irresponsible or obtuse or politically warped that they claim there is no coronavirus at all.

Dr. Brian Cothern and registered nurses Taylor Schweickart and Mylan Woods are all former Wright State athletes who now are working in the medical field.

They are putting their own lives on the line as they deal with the pandemic that has laid siege to the nation and they’ve seen, as Cothern put it, “the devastation” COVID can cause and how it can “really ruin families.”

And yet, when I suggested it would be good lesson for those selfish and clueless naysayers to spend a day with her at Miami Valley Hospital in order to see COVID-19 up close, Woods – a two-time Ohio Division II Basketball Player of the Year before playing at Northwestern and then for the Raiders – promptly disagreed:

“Actually, no I wouldn’t want that. I’d hate for other people to go through this. I’ve been that nurse who has had to FaceTime someone’s family when their loved one is in the hospital, maybe dying, and they can’t see them.

“The nurses up there in the ICU see that and feel that every day. The take it home with them. They’re battling some real serious mental health issues of their own now.

“When I was there, I’d come home sometimes and just cry. Other times I’d just vent. And sometimes I just needed to be all alone.

“So no, I wouldn’t tell anybody to come and spend a day in my shoes.

“I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”

Combined ShapeCaption
WSU MED 8 – The husband and wife medical team of Dr. Brian Cothern and his wife Dr. Katie Cothern with their daughter Charlotte. A pediatrician in Indianapolis, Katie’s an Alter High grad and was on the equestrian team at Otterbein University and then graduated from the Wright State medical school. Brian was an All Horizon League first team selection in soccer for the Raiders, graduated from WSU’s medical school and completed his residency is now finishing his cardiology fellowship at St Francis Hospital in Indianapolis and is treating cardiology patients who have COVID -19. CONTRIBUTED

WSU MED  8 – The husband and wife medical team of Dr. Brian Cothern and his wife Dr. Katie Cothern with their daughter Charlotte. A pediatrician in Indianapolis, Katie’s an Alter High grad and was on the equestrian team at Otterbein University  and then graduated from the Wright State medical school. Brian was an All Horizon League first team selection in soccer for the Raiders, graduated from WSU’s medical school and completed his residency is now finishing his cardiology fellowship at St Francis Hospital in Indianapolis and is treating cardiology patients who have COVID -19. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
WSU MED 8 – The husband and wife medical team of Dr. Brian Cothern and his wife Dr. Katie Cothern with their daughter Charlotte. A pediatrician in Indianapolis, Katie’s an Alter High grad and was on the equestrian team at Otterbein University and then graduated from the Wright State medical school. Brian was an All Horizon League first team selection in soccer for the Raiders, graduated from WSU’s medical school and completed his residency is now finishing his cardiology fellowship at St Francis Hospital in Indianapolis and is treating cardiology patients who have COVID -19. CONTRIBUTED

Cothern – a former first team, All-Horizon League soccer player who graduated from Wright State’s medical school, did his internship there and now is finishing his fellowship in cardiology at St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis – knows what Woods is talking about:

“The hardest thing is to tell someone they’re dying and, because no visitors are being allowed in, they have no one there to comfort them and help them through it.

“Sometimes if a person is about to go on a ventilator, they may be taking their last breath on their own. That’s scary.

“These encounters happen every single day and they never get any easier.”

In fact, these situations are occurring more and more.

Even with the bumpy rollout of two vaccines in the United States, 2021 – almost unbelievably – has started out even worse than 2020.

In the past two weeks or so, the U.S. has shattered its all-time daily records for COVID infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

According to a CNN report Friday, the nation recorded 302,506 infections on Jan 2. That’s one case every 3.5 seconds. On Jan., 6, 132,447 people were hospitalized and just five days ago there were 4,462 deaths in a 24-hour period.

Over the next three weeks, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced 90,000 people could die from COVID-19.

No one knows the impact of the virus any more than Schweickart.

The West Carrollton High School grad who ran track at Wright State now works as a nurse in Los Angeles, which is the new epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

Los Angeles County – the largest in the nation with a population of 10 million – has had 1 of every 10 residents test positive for COVID. A person is dying from it there every eight seconds.

Hospitals, ambulance services, funeral homes – and especially medical people – are overwhelmed.

Since December, Schweickart has been working as a swabbing nurse at a drive-through testing site outside of a West Los Angeles medical center. Covered head to toe in PPE (personal protective equipment), she comforts anxious people and answers their questions as she tests them for COVID.

She said some 400 to 600 people a day come through her testing site.

“It’s really crazy,” she said by phone during her lunch break. “Hospitals are so over-crowded, people are being treated in the gift shops and out in the parking lots.”

Dozens of hospitals have shut their emergency room doors to ambulances for hours at a time.

“I haven’t been in this very long, but it’s unlike anything I’ve seen and it’s nothing like we were taught in medical school,” Cothern said. “I’ve got a bunch of bosses in their 60s and they said they’ve never seen anything like this either.”

While Woods doesn’t want the general public to see it up close like she and Schweickart and Cothern are, she does have one suggestion:

“Just wear your friggin’ mask!”

Combined ShapeCaption
Mylan Woods, a registered nurse at Miami Valley Hospital ,was twice named the Ohio Division II Basketball Player of the Year while at Hathaway Brown, won two state titles there and then played at Northwestern and Wright State. After a nursing degree from WSU, she worked in both the Coronary ICU and the COVID ICU at Miami Valley and now is working in the cardiac catheterization lab, where she’s caring for heart patients, many whose situations are made more dire by a COVID 19 infection. CONTRIBUTED

Mylan Woods, a registered nurse at Miami Valley Hospital ,was twice named the Ohio Division II Basketball Player of the Year while at Hathaway Brown, won two state titles there and then played at Northwestern and Wright State. After a nursing degree from WSU, she worked in both the Coronary ICU and the COVID ICU at Miami Valley and now is working in the cardiac catheterization lab, where she’s caring for heart patients, many whose situations are made more dire by a COVID 19 infection. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Mylan Woods, a registered nurse at Miami Valley Hospital ,was twice named the Ohio Division II Basketball Player of the Year while at Hathaway Brown, won two state titles there and then played at Northwestern and Wright State. After a nursing degree from WSU, she worked in both the Coronary ICU and the COVID ICU at Miami Valley and now is working in the cardiac catheterization lab, where she’s caring for heart patients, many whose situations are made more dire by a COVID 19 infection. CONTRIBUTED

‘It’s my duty’

Woods joined the WSU women’s team in 2011 as one of the most decorated additions ever to the Raiders men’s or women’s basketball programs.

She was a three-time, first team all-state selection while playing at Hathaway Brown High in Shaker Heights. She led the Blazers to four Division II state title games and two state championships.

She went to Northwestern as a premed major, but eventually decided on nursing because of the care she saw her dad get from nurses. But Northwestern didn’t have a nursing program, so she transferred to WSU, which did. That also enabled her to be closer to her parents who she said then lived in Columbus.

But at WSU she suffered two torn ACLs, both of which required surgery and pretty much derailed her hoop dreams.

“That’s where I have to credit Coach Trina (then assistant, now head coach Katrina Merriweather),” Woods said. “She helped me realize there was so much more to me than just being a basketball player.

“I can’t say enough about Trina. She was more than a coach, she was a motherly-sisterly figure who helped guide me to the woman I am today.”

Through it all, Woods dealt with the severe health issues of her father, Derrick, who had had a double lung transplant in 2010, her senior year in high school.

Combined ShapeCaption
Mylan Woods, a registered nurse at Miami Valley Hospital, with her late father, Derrick, who was the inspiration for her to go into medicine. In 2010 Derrick had a double lung transplant and lived until 2019. Mylan – who was twice named the Ohio Division II Basketball Player of the Year while at Hathaway Brown, won two state titles there and then played at Northwestern and Wright State – was moved by the nurses who cared for her father and she wanted to do the same for others one day. CONTRIBUTED

Mylan Woods, a registered nurse at Miami Valley Hospital, with her late father, Derrick, who was the inspiration for her to go  into medicine. In 2010 Derrick had a double lung transplant and lived until 2019. Mylan – who was twice named the Ohio Division II Basketball Player of the Year while at Hathaway Brown, won two state titles there and then played at Northwestern and Wright State –  was moved by the nurses who cared for her father and she wanted to do the same for others one day.  CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Mylan Woods, a registered nurse at Miami Valley Hospital, with her late father, Derrick, who was the inspiration for her to go into medicine. In 2010 Derrick had a double lung transplant and lived until 2019. Mylan – who was twice named the Ohio Division II Basketball Player of the Year while at Hathaway Brown, won two state titles there and then played at Northwestern and Wright State – was moved by the nurses who cared for her father and she wanted to do the same for others one day. CONTRIBUTED

“It was Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis,” she said. “He never smoked a day in his life. Never drank. It was just something that kind of snuck up on him. The average life expectancy is only about five years, but he made almost 10.

“He died in November of 2019. He was just 53.”

“Right from the start I saw how the nurses took care of him and the impact they had on his life. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a nurse. I think they are completely undervalued and under-appreciated for the amount of time they spend not only with the patients, but the patients’ families.

“And I’ll tell you, being a nurse has not only met all my expectations, it’s exceeded them in some aspects. It’s been a really fulfilling career for me.

“When I came to Wright State, I came to the right school. In fact, I’m in the family nurse practitioner program there right now.”

In October of 2019, she and her wife, Christina, were married and she said they hope to start a family soon.

“When I first came here, I never thought I’d be planting roots in Dayton, Ohio,” she laughed. “But here I am. And now I can’t imagine myself anywhere else.”

In Cothern’s case, after playing soccer and football at Big Walnut High in Sunbury just north of Columbus, he came to WSU and had a stellar senior season, but soon realized he needed “a Plan B.”

Combined ShapeCaption
Dr. Brian Cothern was an All Horizon League first team selection in soccer at Wright State. He graduated from WSU’s medical school and completed his residency there and is now finishing his cardiology fellowship at St Francis Hospital in Indianapolis and is treating cardiology patients who have COVID -19. CONTRIBUTED

Dr. Brian Cothern was an All Horizon League first team selection in soccer at Wright State. He graduated from WSU’s medical school and completed his residency there and is now finishing his cardiology fellowship at St Francis Hospital in Indianapolis and is treating cardiology patients who have COVID -19. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Dr. Brian Cothern was an All Horizon League first team selection in soccer at Wright State. He graduated from WSU’s medical school and completed his residency there and is now finishing his cardiology fellowship at St Francis Hospital in Indianapolis and is treating cardiology patients who have COVID -19. CONTRIBUTED

Rather than as a pro athlete, he saw his future could be in medicine. After getting a degree in biology, he was accepted into the WSU medical school and there met fellow student, Katie Kiser, an Alter High grad who had been on the equestrian team at Otterbein University.

Today, they are married. She’s a pediatrician in Indianapolis and the couple has a 2-year-old daughter, Charlotte, and another child on the way.

“Wright State was a good fit for me,” he said. “I had a lot of support there. I got real close to Dr. Hopkins (former WSU president David Hopkins) when he was still at Wright State and Bob Grant (athletics director) was fantastic. And I played for Mike Tracy and Bryan Davis. I couldn’t have picked a better place.”

As for Schweickart, she got a degree in rehabilitative services at WSU and then got her nursing degree at Sinclair. That led to her “dream job,” as she called it, at a children’s hospital in Columbus.

After COVID hit, she was laid off, then hired back to be part of a virus testing program.

She had flirted with the idea of being a travelling nurse and when COVID surged across the nation, she wanted to work at place in real need. Officials in Columbus told her of the temporary position in Los Angeles and she applied, was accepted and was on a plane the next day.

Since then she’s extended her contract into May because she said the situation is so critical there:

“People say, ‘Aren’t you scared?’ and I say, ‘No, it’s my duty.’

“You don’t say no as a nurse.”

Vaccines provide hope

When COVID first hit here last spring, Woods said her hospital had the same issues other hospitals across the nation had:

“There was a lack of PPE and for the longest time we had no N-95 masks. People were bringing in their own they’d gotten at Lowes or Home Depot. And once we finally did get some, we were using them for almost a month at a time before we could change them out for a new one.”

That problem has been corrected and through it all she said Miami Valley’s care and treatment of patients never faltered.

It remains that way today even, she said, as they’re seeing patients who recovered from COVID return with heart issues.

After manning both the Cardiac and the COVID ICUs, she’s now working in the catheterization lab.

Miami Valley now has several floors dedicated to COVID patients, as does St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis, Cothern said:

“We previously had four units dedicated only to heart patients, but now they’re all dedicated as COVID floors. We even had to turn some of our operating rooms into COVID units. It’s been a real eye opener.”

He’s especially seen that with his wife’s work:

“I know the feeling is that kids aren’t affected by COVID, but unfortunately she has admitted multiple children with COVID symptoms, too.”

There is hope with two vaccines – one by Pfizer/BioNTech and one by Moderna – that are now being administered in the US. But there are major distribution problems and, as of Friday, only 11.1 million vaccines has been administered out of 30.9 million doses distributed across the nation.

Cothern just got his two doses of the vaccine and said he felt “great.”

Combined ShapeCaption
Taylor Schweickart, who was a three-sport athlete at West Carrollton High, ran track at Wright State and competed in the hurdles, long jump, 800 meter run and the heptathlon. CONTRIBUTED

Taylor Schweickart,  who was a three-sport athlete at West Carrollton High, ran track at Wright State and competed in the hurdles, long jump, 800 meter run and the heptathlon. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Taylor Schweickart, who was a three-sport athlete at West Carrollton High, ran track at Wright State and competed in the hurdles, long jump, 800 meter run and the heptathlon. CONTRIBUTED

Meanwhile, out in California, Schweickart had to laugh when she thought back to her days coming out of West Carrollton:

“I went to Wright State because I didn’t want to be too far away from home.”

She said she’s now settled into a routine in L.A., so much so that she said the other day her dad – her parents are quite proud of her by the way – teased her:

“’You’re never coming back! You’re loving it out there.’

“I told him, ‘No, one day I am coming back, but right now I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be. I really feel like I’m helping California.’

“I know I’m just one person, but it’s one more person doing good for them than they had before.”

About the Author