Former University of Georgia point guard Alexis Kendricks knows about toughness. In 132 games from 2002-06, she is still the only Lady Bulldog in program history to start every contest of her four-year career.
Now a firefighter-paramedic for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Kendricks is displaying the same kind of grit and determination that was a trademark of her time on the basketball floor.
For her and her fellow first responders, learning to adapt has been key as they battle the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“So many policies and protocols have changed,” Kendricks said. “We’re trying to limit exposure, especially since we do transport COVID-19 patients. That’s changed the way we do a lot of things – from how we respond to calls, even to the ways we interact at the station. Everything we do is to not only protect ourselves, but to ensure we’re protecting all those we serve, as well.”
Prior to the outbreak, response crews typically consisted of three paramedics, a captain and an engineer to drive the engine. Together, the five-person team would assess the patient, help the individual onto a gurney and then transport the patient to a hospital. This number has since been reduced to two personnel assessing patients.
Further attempts to limit exposure include highly screened calls by dispatchers to identify whether the patient has been tested for or is showing any symptoms of the virus. This allows Kendricks and her fellow squad members to prepare the necessary supplies, as well as suit up in the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), which can differ depending on the case.
“With every call we receive these days, we always wear the basic PPE gear,” Kendricks said.
This includes N95 respirator masks, goggles and gloves. Kendricks must also wear a gown taped at the wrists when responding to calls for COVID-19 patients or those showing symptoms of the virus.
“Before COVID-19, our uniform was just a pair of tactical pants with a Nomex shirt,” Kendricks said. “Now, wearing these gowns while carrying all this equipment – it’s definitely taking a lot of getting used to. It’s just one of those necessary changes, even though it’s been drastic.”
Though PPE is key in combatting the virus, supplies can run low. For the LA County Fire Department, the community has become a huge supplier.
“People around our community have become aware of the needs that the fire departments may have,” Kendricks said. “Sometimes, we may run low on supplies of surgical masks or N-95 masks, gowns or different sanitizing products. Then, we’ll get a shipment in from someone or a group of people donating those types of supplies, and it’s greatly, greatly needed. I can’t say that enough. To have the community step up and make sure its fire departments are taken care of has been so great and means a lot.”
Working in her hometown area of Los Angeles, Kendricks says the hardest part about the pandemic hits when she leaves the station. Prior to the outbreak, she would often pick up her nephew from school, help him with his homework and take him to basketball practice. However, Kendricks’ frequent contact with COVID-19 patients has forced her to self-isolate for the last few months, seeing her family only sparingly.
It is a harsh reality she says has taught her the value of human touch.
“It is something we all take for granted, for a friend or a relative to give you a hug or kiss on the cheek,” Kendricks said. “I can’t express how it felt the first time I got to see my nephew during all of this. Even though it wasn’t for very long, just being able to give him a hug, being able to pick him up and just play around – it meant everything.”
Kendricks also acknowledges how difficult the pandemic has been on student-athletes but encourages them not to underestimate the power of their resilience.
“I feel like I learned the value of resilience every day as a student-athlete at Georgia,” Kendricks said. “The amount of stress can be unbelievable at times, but [student-athletes] learn to put one foot in front of the other no matter what happens. Each has the ability to overcome adversity and to endure, and I just encourage each of the student-athletes to continue using the lessons learned at UGA to put one foot in front of the other. If they give their best every day, that is all anyone can do.”
As for Kendricks, she is following her own advice—taking each day as it comes and putting one foot in front of the other in the fight against COVID-19.