Her passion for nursing was born in the hallways at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Molly Blake was a frequent visitor there when her father, Matthew, underwent treatment for Stage 5 kidney disease when she was growing up.

Those trips and seeing the strange faces could have made Blake skittish, but she ultimately saw the good in each nurse who provided care. They weren’t looming figures who only inflicted pain when they poked and prodded or administered medication; Blake witnessed compassion, care and kindness.

The doctors and nurses offered encouragement and made sure the family felt stronger when they departed for the 30-minute drive home to Finksburg, Maryland.

“I realized I wanted to be in the profession where I was constantly serving others and building relationships with people and just interacting with people — I’m not the type of person that can sit at a desk all day and stare at a screen,” Blake said. “I just really do think it’s my calling.”

That calling came into focus during her junior year of high school at the Gerstell Academy, well after she already had committed to attend Liberty University to play for the women’s lacrosse team. The passion to serve others, especially children, made her want to be on the front lines, where she can help those who desperately need it.

So now she works in the neurotrauma pediatric ICU at the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, a job she accepted during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Little did I know this whole time I would be walking into my profession during a pandemic,” she said.

Blake’s passion for helping others eventually became clearer when her senior season on the lacrosse field came to an unexpected conclusion March 13. The ASUN Conference announced that day it was canceling all remaining spring sports contests, a day after the NCAA canceled its winter and spring sports championships because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

When Kelly Nangle, Blake’s lacrosse coach, disclosed the news to her team, Blake went through what she described as “a roller coaster of emotions.”

Her initial emotion was “just sad about everything.” She and the other six seniors on the roster began to realize there would be no closure to their collegiate careers. No walks across the turf field with family on Senior Day. No opportunity to compete for a conference championship with a chance to play in the Division I national tournament.

Along the roller coaster ride, Blake felt “kind of terrified and scared of so much unknown and what to expect.” Though she had accepted her job at Children’s Medical Center exactly one week prior to her lacrosse career coming to an abrupt end, there was still uncertainty, as the spread of COVID-19 forced closings and cancellations across the country.

In the final two weeks of her studies, Blake saw her professors adapt course work to begin teaching about pandemics and “just what we’re walking into.” Blake was completing her capstone clinicals in the pediatric emergency department at Lynchburg General Hospital and was at the hospital the night before the first positive COVID-19 case was confirmed there in late March.

“They really pushed you to prepare us for going into this profession in the middle of the pandemic,” Blake said. “I think it’s just been certainly unprecedented times, but for me, I’m just enjoying learning and growing so much.”

Blake said she was the first player in the lacrosse program’s history to earn her bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) in four years, and the shortened lacrosse season was a blessing in disguise as she prepared to enter her profession.

“I think once the season was canceled, it was the first time in my four years that I got to totally focus on being a nurse and being a student. In the past four years, it’s just always been a balancing act for me trying to give 100% in both my academics and my athletics,” she said.

“Me trying to see the bright side in this whole situation, it was really awesome for me to spend my last couple of weeks of my senior year just focusing on being a nurse. It kind of helped me in that transition from becoming a student nurse to a real nurse. I think during that time, I was able to take more time to be in my studies and pay attention more to the news and what’s going on and just talking to other healthcare workers and kind of preparing my heart and my mind for what I’m about to walk into.”

Blake stepped into a profession that requires 12-hour shifts and constant attention to detail. That is where her lacrosse background has come into play. She played the sport for 13 years, and she applies several traits she learned during her playing career. Time management, learning how to adapt quickly, thinking on her toes, and emphasizing loving and caring relationships are the first that came to her mind.

“It’s so important because it’s scary out there right now,” she said.

The pediatric ICU at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas is split into two sides: the neurotrauma side where Blake works and the general pediatric ICU on the other side that has been turned into the designated COVID-19 floor of the hospital.

She said one of the hardest things to deal with in her first month on the job is seeing the limited interactions parents and family members can have with the young patients because of the pandemic. That is why, with each stop to a room, she tries to be an extension of the family with her calm and reassuring nature.

“I have fallen more in love with the profession,” she said, “and just realized I want to serve and I want to help.”

Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.

Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.

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