Local ICU nurse battles with COVID-19

Gabrielle Bunton

A local nurse and graduate of WKU is entering her sixteenth day on a ventilator after contracting COVID-19 while taking care of patients at a local hospital for the past several months.

Molly Dawson, a nurse at TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital, had not been feeling well for a few days but had tested negative for the virus. Friend and co-worker, Ryan Curry said that Dawson had kept getting worse until she couldn’t breathe.

According to Curry, Dawson has always been a hot nature person, so when she told him that her temperature was 99 degrees, he knew something was wrong. Curry noticed that Dawson was wearing a sweatshirt, which was also unusual.

“I know that if she was wearing a sweatshirt that she was feeling bad because she never wears long sleeves. Her temperature had kept getting worse and she was at 102 and 103. It finally got to the point where she couldn’t breathe. I think it woke her up in the middle of the night because she couldn’t catch her breath. That’s when she came to the emergency room,” said Curry.

Since she was flown to TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, her mother stays at a hotel across the street. Dawson is being cared for in the COVID-19 unit where patients who are  in the unit are not allowed visits.

Dawson’s younger sister, Claire Dawson, says that the two have a close relationship, which makes her illness difficult to handle.

“I go to her for a lot of things, like advice and just to talk about anything. It’s been weird having her in the hospital and not getting to talk to her at all.”

Despite the risk of working in nursing, it caught Dawson’s mother off guard to see her daughter this way.

“I knew it was probable that she would be positive at some point, but I didn’t really anticipate that she would be this way. I assumed that since some of her coworkers had gotten it and they said that it was like the flu and that it would be the same for her,” Dawson said. “Turns out it wasn’t.”

Her younger sister said that the rest of her family is also shocked at the severity of her illness. They were not surprised that she caught it because of her proximity to COVID-19 patients for a long period of time, but were surprised she had to be intubated.

Curry says that while the chances were higher due to their career, Dawson was never nervous and she always put her patients first.

“We are both ICU nurses, so we take care of really critical patients. If there was a patient that was really unstable or sick, Molly was the first one to volunteer to take care of them. She likes to be able to see herself make a difference,” said Curry.

To help offset rising medical costs, Curry and another friend, Sydney Walsh, created a GoFundMe, to help raise money and more awareness for Molly.

Walsh, a close friend, says Dawson’s financial burdens are high due to her hospitalization and unemployment.

“I had originally set the goal for $6,000 but after an outpouring of love and support, we have surpassed the goal and we are inching towards $11,000,” Walsh said.

Walsh says that she will continue to update the goal as Dawson’s financial needs rise. She further explained that she wants her to wake up with as little financial burden as possible.

One of her fellow Omega Phi Alpha sisters is making masks, a hashtag called  #maskformolly has started, while another person is making shirts to show support. Her mother posts daily Facebook updates on the well being of Dawson.

All of the attention and support for Dawson has taken her mother by surprise.

“It’s been amazing. There are thousands of people reaching out and asking how she is and praying for her, asking to help out and wanting to know how she is doing. The amount of support that we have had and that she has had is incredible.”

Dawson’s experience has affected the actions of others. Curry says he has become extra cautious with his patients.

“As a nurse you always want to take proper precautions with any kind of patient. After you see something like this that is so serious to someone you are close with, you want to take extra precaution.You have to keep a close eye on them and check all their vital signs and make sure that they are doing okay,” said Curry.

Dawson’s family members and friends are urging others to wear face masks.

“We’re just trying to raise a lot of awareness of her story and to make people understand that this is a really serious issue. Wearing a mask is not just to protect yourself but to protect the people that are around you,” Curry said.

Walsh says the virus is no joke. “This virus is something that can and will kill you if you don’t take the right precautions. Protect those who can not protect themselves, please.”

Her younger sister says Dawson would want people to look at her story and to learn from it.

“She would want to show from her story that anyone could get it.”