Mavericks on the front lines

Mavericks near and far provide essential services. Here are three of their stories.

Tuesday, Apr 14, 2020

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Emma Haak, Lauren Elizondo and Courtney Kinnear

There’s at least one thing we’re certain of at The University of Texas at Arlington: The Maverick community is a force for good.

Among the 230,000 UTA alumni and 60,000-plus students, staff and faculty are thousands of Maverick heroes providing essential support and care to their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. From a UTA freshman to veteran, front-line nurses, Mavericks are making a difference. Here are three of their stories.

Emma Haak, captioning assistant

Haak, a political science freshman, works as a captioning assistant at CapTel Service Specialists, providing phone call captions for deaf and hard-of-hearing clients.

“We are sometimes the only way they can understand their phone calls,” she said.

Haak landed the position after attending UTA’s All-Majors Job Fair in February. Because CapTel also helps process calls in emergency situations, sometimes between clients and 911, her work is classified as essential. But as Haak points out, it’s essential for other reasons, too—she’s literally connecting people at a time when social distancing mandates are severely limiting them from being together.

“Right now, people are unable to see each other in person, and they are worried about each other, so they are calling each other more,” Haak said. “Our office is receiving more calls than it ever has.”

After a stressful day at work, she finds relief in the very thing that makes her job so important.

“I’ve made a habit of checking in with friends every day over text and video calls,” she said. “These connections are something that keep me going even when living in quarantine becomes unpleasant or frustrating.”

Lauren Elizondo, ICU nurse

Elizondo (’05 BSN) is a registered nurse for Baylor Scott & White, where she’s worked as a floating ICU nurse for the last 15 years. While the hospitals she serves have seen an increase in COVID-19 patients over the last few weeks, her job, she said, has remained the same.

“Gowning up and doing contact precaution is not new to nursing,” said Elizondo, who lives in Arlington. “I feel safe and secure because of the protective steps that are in place.”

The hardest thing so far is that the protective precautions create a literal barrier between her and her patients.

“To care for a patient, touch is a very big thing,” Elizondo said. “Our time in the room can be very impersonal when you’re trying to talk through a mask and limit the time you’re in there. It distances the patients from you.”

Elizondo is, above all, grateful for the job she still loves doing.

“My job is very fulfilling,” she said. “I’m thankful that I’m still needed—that I still get to go to work and take care of people.”

Courtney Kinnear, ER charge nurse

Kinnear (’16 BSN, ’19 MSN) is an emergency room registered nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian of Rockwall, where she also serves as charge nurse. Part of her job is assigning nurses to patients in a nine-bed ER that sees about 60-80 patients a day.

Since COVID-19, a lot about her day-to-day role has changed. The hospital has reorganized its emergency room, added negative pressure rooms and taken over a seven-room pre-op area to use as a respiratory hallway.

“The hardest part is the unknown,” said Kinnear, who lives in Royse City. “We don’t know when it’s going to hit our area, how hard it will be, or how long it will last. When this first hit our country, it was hard watching the brave nurses, doctors and PA/NPs that I work with have so much anxiety and fear of what was to happen.”

Kinnear said encouragement from the community is bringing her the most joy right now.

“The amount of support people are showing for health care workers is amazing,” she said. “The nursing profession seems to have renewed respect from the community.”

- Written by Amber Scott

Share your story

If you or a Maverick you know is working through the pandemic and making a difference in your community, we’d like to know.