Brittani Coury competes during the Women's Banked Slalom SB-LL2 at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Games on March 16, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.
Paralympic silver medalist Brittani Coury has now spent seven months isolated from her family, working as a registered nurse in Utah during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While she’s now based fully on the internal medicine floor and her hours have slowed since the spring, she’s still working nearly 40 hours per week — and oftentimes picking up extra shifts — all while cross training and mountain biking to prepare for the upcoming snowboard season.
In fact, she went through a 32-day period over the summer in which she worked 28 of those days, and she slept through nearly the entirety of her off days.
Yet seven months in, she wouldn’t change her decision for the world.
“I’m a helper, not a helpee. With the pandemic I saw an opportunity in that they needed people to help in the COVID tent and I jumped right on it,” Coury said.
“I try not to see negativity. I try to live my life based on what I can do to make things better. For me, it’s just about having a bigger appreciation for people all over the world. We’re all humans, and I’m in a role where I’m taking care of other humans. I would value human life over any sporting event.”
The diverse range of patients Coury has treated this year has given her a renewed perspective on humanity. For instance, her four-day struggle to explain how to use an incidence barometer (to open up the lungs) to one of her patients who only spoke the Western Armenian dialect of Karin was four days she will never forget.
“No matter our differences, whether it’s language or whatever, we are still humans and we can still interact,” she said. “I felt more like a hero that day because of the human aspect of nursing than I did while I was in the COVID tent in full PPE gear.”
Conversations with her patients — as well as family, friends and co-workers — this year have tremendously influenced Coury’s outlook on life.
“It’s easy to judge somebody off what they say or do, but if you don’t understand who they are as a person, it’s difficult,” she said. “In these challenging times, I encourage others to give each other grace, because they may not understand where somebody else is coming from. Take a moment and have a conversation with someone who has a differing opinion than you, and you may learn something. That could turn out to be a pretty big win, to learn something new.”