Johnstown’s Hilvers, Newark’s Brookbank assisting at OhioHealth coronavirus testing sites

Kurt Snyder, Newark Advocate

Published 6:00 a.m. ET May 26, 2020

COLUMBUS - It was like the first day of school for Jeanne Hilvers, but her ability to adapt carried real-life consequences.

The Johnstown athletic trainer recently found herself on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, and Hilvers has had no choice but to rely on her education and those around her.

“The first day or so was difficult because we didn’t know. It was kind of the fear of the unknown,” said Hilvers, one of five OhioHealth Sports Medicine athletic trainers called to assist at one of its two drive-thru testing sites in central Ohio. Newark’s Evan Brookbank is another.

”You see the testing sites and the people in the full (personal protective equipment), it looks kind of scary,” Hilvers added. “As soon as we got into the tents, the nurses that were training us made us feel super comfortable. We watched for a little bit, and then we just jumped right in.”

When it became clear high school sports were unlikely to resume this spring, athletic trainers waited for their next assignment. Some checked people into medical facilities, and others performed health screenings.

When Hilvers and Brookbank received the call in early May, they were thrown right into the thick of it. With Gov. Mike DeWine lifting his ban on elective surgeries, many of the hospital staff went back to their typical jobs.

“It’s something I never thought I’d be doing,” Brookbank said. “I think we were all pretty nervous at first just because testing for things like this is not something I have done really ever. We work with a lot of great nurses, so that’s one great part of it. It’s been kind of nice to pick their brains.”

Newark’s Evan Brookbank and Johnstown’s Jeanne Hilvers, both OhioHealth Sports Medicine athletic trainers, have been assisting at coronavirus drive-thru testing sites this month.

Newark’s Evan Brookbank and Johnstown’s Jeanne Hilvers, both OhioHealth Sports Medicine athletic trainers, have been assisting at coronavirus drive-thru testing sites this month. (Photo: Courtesy of OhioHealth)

Those receiving tests either have been prescribed it by a doctor or are entering the hospital for a procedure. The athletic trainers typically are performing a slightly less-invasive test with a swab of the back of the throat than the commonly-known swab of the nasal passage.

It certainly is not an environment for small talk. Tone and body language from those performing tests, however, can soothe nerves.

“Patients basically can only see our eyes because we have our N-95 mask on, a face shield and gowns and gloves,” said Hilvers, who has worked six years at Johnstown. “We try to reassure them in the best way possible through our voice and our eye expressions. We do get a lot of people nervous coming through because they don’t know what to expect, but then most of the time by the time we are done, it’s, ‘Oh, that’s it?’”

The time from a patient first developing possible symptoms to receiving test results are days many have never experienced. That is not lost on Brookbank.

“We are happy to help out, and we have been hoping to find our place in this,” he said. “This is the scariest thing going on in their life right now. With being athletic trainers, we handle so many injuries, and for so many of the kids, sports are the biggest thing going on in their life. A lot of us know how to calm situations and hopefully be a ray of light.”

With youth and recreational sports set to begin Tuesday, progress has started to getting athletes back on the playing fields and athletic trainers on the sidelines. For now, the athletic trainers, however, are doing something outside of the curriculum.

“Athletic trainers just expect the unexpected,” Hilvers said. “We generally don’t know what we are going to get into on a normal day at the school. We were not exactly expecting this, but we are definitely making the best of the situation.”

Athletic trainers being redeployed to front lines of coronavirus pandemic

by Chris Renkel & Stephanie Kuzydym / WKRC

Tuesday, April 14th 2020

CINCINNATI (WKRC) – High school stadiums are silent.

No practice.

No games.

No championships to compete for.

Coaches are at home instead of the sidelines. But athletic trainers have found a new field: as the frontline workers of COVID-19.

A typical day for Ken Rushford used to start out in the afternoon in his training room.

“Normally, I’d be working at St. Xavier High School with the athletes there,” Rushford said. “Since the COVID virus has been around, Tri-Health has deployed us to other settings to assist the patients out there.”

Athletic trainers have been retrained and redeployed to new sites during the height of the pandemic. They're not alone. Physical therapists, nurse practitioners and other health care professionals have also been sent to the frontlines.

Taking temperatures, checking blood pressure, taking pulses: the skills all transferred over to helping during the response to coronavirus. Their jobs now consist of providing physical therapy, screening patients, even administering coronavirus tests.

“Athletic trainers are more...than the men and women that get the towels, that get the water, that get the Gatorade and tape ankles,” Rushford said. “We can be out in the general population and do just about anything else the health care providers can do.”

They traded the adrenaline of a basketball game for the stress of the deadly virus.

“The transition from adrenaline on the field to protecting our own families has been a difficult transition,” Rushford said. “It’s been a huge adjustment for us.”

“We’re not just a one-trick pony,” Chris Bonnell said.

Bonnell used to spend his days also in his Sycamore High athletic training room, wiping down training tables, evaluating his athletes and getting them back into the game. Now, he’s working in the physical therapy clinic with senior citizens through telemedicine to keep them moving.

“Instead of the young kids trying to get back in two or three days, these are people that we’re trying to get back to active, daily normal life so they can go garden or walk around at the park or walk their dog,” Bonnell said. “It’s those goals instead of getting someone so they can be back in at a game on Friday night.”

As for their athletes? They talk with them regularly. Some are even going through physical therapy themselves.

But most?

“The majority of the kids have no idea what’s going on with what we’re doing these days,” Bonnell said.

“They probably think I’m doing vacation,” Rushford said.