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A Pandemic Hero: Laura Bohning making a difference on the front lines

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In 2013, Saint Louis slugger Laura Bohning made softball history. In a game against Rhode Island, Bohning slugged two grand slams in the same inning, becoming one of just three players in Division I history to accomplish the feat. Years later, the record earned her a mention in an episode of popular television game show Jeopardy!

While the acknowledgement from famed host Alex Trebek and the number of times that her name still appears in the Saint Louis program record book are each impressive in their own right, Bohning’s crowning achievement might be taking place in the present time. A physician assistant, she spends her days helping battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her home state of Arizona, where she now works, the coronavirus has spiked heavily in the state in recent times. Bohning works at an urgent care facility where, under normal circumstances, she might see anything from a common cold to bone fractures and heart attacks. Things look very different, though, since the pandemic dawned.

“COVID-19 has drastically changed the dynamic,” Bohning said recently. “All but two of our urgent care facilities have been converted into Respiratory Illness Centers where all we see and do is evaluate, treat, and test potential COVID-19 patients, whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic. At these locations, we are typically seeing around 500 patients per day on average, and numbers only seem to be increasing.”

As with many medical providers across the country, Bohning has seen her workload increase significantly as the pandemic has hit close to home. “I am working shifts of 12 hours plus, often 3-4 times per week,” she said. “I have many coworkers who are sick, requiring us to pick up extra shifts to fill in the gaps. I have seen other healthcare providers, patients (at a rate of about 30% positive here in Arizona), friends, and family come back positive for COVID-19, some of whom suffered the more severe effects of the disease, and some who didn’t make it. It’s been especially trying, having a front-row seat to witness the magnitude of suffering that is currently going on in our state, as well as in the country and the world as a whole.”

There’s no denying the impact that battling the pandemic has on healthcare providers. Even as she puts on her scrubs and heads into work on a near-daily basis, Bohning is all-too-familiar with that impactful feeling.

“It’s been stressful to say the least,” Bohning said. “Definitely exhausting and a little depressing, especially not being able to see friends and family because I’m scared to get someone sick since I’m a higher risk person to be around. It’s tough, and I don’t see any end or relief in sight.”

Making Bohning’s COVID-battling heroics even more impressive is the fact that she is simultaneously taking classes towards her second Master’s degree. Several classes into the degree program, she’s scheduled to finish the coursework in the summer of 2021, when she’ll graduate with her Master’s in Health Informatics. “To say things have been crazy recently is an understatement,” she aptly summed things up.

Without a doubt, it can be hard to find even so much as a positive thought in the midst of something like a deadly pandemic, but Bohning shared what keeps her going, even on the tough days: “It makes going to work everyday a little bit easier knowing that we are doing something that is actually helping people.”

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