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caption: 6:27 AM, March 16, 2020. Bellevue, WA nurse Kathy Leong heads out the door to go work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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6:27 AM, March 16, 2020. Bellevue, WA nurse Kathy Leong heads out the door to go work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Credit: KUOW PHOTO/Kristin Leong

Covid-19, tuberculosis, meningitis — it's all business as usual for this nurse of 50 years

Voices of the Pandemic features people in the Seattle area who are on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak.

Kathy Leong has been a hospital nurse for five decades. The hospital where she works east of Seattle is just a few miles from the Kirkland nursing home that was the epicenter of the United States' initial COVID-19 outbreak. Because of her age, Leong has been exempt from treating coronavirus-positive patients directly, but she continues to work full-time, treating other patients and supporting her overworked colleagues.

Their assignment is a lot heavier, the patients are sicker, it's more stressful.

For the most part, we get along really well on the whole unit. But you can see the stress and maybe they're a little shorter with people. Everyone's trying to work together, you know, help out.

Like if someone's in one of the rooms and they forgot to get a med out, rather than undress, which takes time, and then go get it, they'll maybe open the door: "Kathy, go get me this medication." And so I'll go get it and hand it to them.

caption: 6:09 AM, March 16, 2020. Bellevue, WA hospital nurse Kathy Leong gets ready for work. The hospital where she works is just a few miles from the Kirkland nursing home that was the epicenter of Washington State's Covid-19 initial outbreak.
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6:09 AM, March 16, 2020. Bellevue, WA hospital nurse Kathy Leong gets ready for work. The hospital where she works is just a few miles from the Kirkland nursing home that was the epicenter of Washington State's Covid-19 initial outbreak.
Credit: KUOW PHOTO/Kristin Leong

I love being a nurse. I've always wanted to be a nurse, since I was five.

Fifty years as a nurse, you see so many things. I mean, like I mentioned, I've taken care of active TB [tuberculosis] patients, that's scary. I've taken are of active bacterial meningitis patients, that's scary.

So there's many things that you encounter as a nurse. Coronavirus, it's there. It's something that we've run into right now, and we deal with it. We do what we have to do.

Kristin Leong produced this piece. Kathy Leong is her mom.

Alec Cowan composed the music.

To hear more personal stories from our Voices of the Pandemic series and to contribute your own go to KUOW.org/voices.