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U.S. Navy Lt. Jessica Colston, the team lead at the Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point (NHCCP) Respiratory Clinic, locates a piece of equipment for a COVID-19 test at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, Aug. 18, 2020. Colston worked in the women’s health department of NHCCP before taking lead in the respiratory clinic during the fight against COVID-19. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michael Neuenhoff)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Michael Neuenhoff

On the Front Lines

6 Sep 2020 | Lance Cpl. Micahel Neuenhoff Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point

The fight against Coronavirus disease 2019, commonly referred to as COVID-19, has been a long and tiring combined effort from some of our nation’s best medical professionals without an end in sight. Tirelessly, medical personnel have been grinding away to diagnose and treat any and all persons that have come in contact with the virus. Here at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, North Carolina, it isn’t any different. The medical staff at Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point (NHCCP) have been on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 since the beginning.
“When we first heard about this pandemic, I realized it was a very serious issue and had to be dealt with accordingly,” said Lt. Jessica Colston, team lead at the NHCCP respiratory clinic.
COVID-19 is a strain of the Coronavirus, Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are known to cause illness such as the common cold to more severe symptoms such as Severe Acute Respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and death.
“The purpose of the respiratory clinic is to evaluate people that are presenting any kind of concern for a respiratory illness,” said Colston. “The challenge with COVID, is that it presents very vague symptoms, similar to those of the flu. So here, we are the filter that catches all the people who may be infected with COVID-19 so they don’t go to their primary healthcare provider and risk spreading the virus. So it’s imperative you get tested if you show any signs.”
The nurses and Navy Corpsmen at the NHCCP respiratory clinic have been pulling long hours since the start of the virus in an effort to mitigate the amount of cases on base and get those exposed quarantined in an efficient manner.
Respiratory clinic workers are trained on the job. If someone is newly appointed to the clinic, the rest of the staff ensures they properly know how to dawn the protective equipment, fill out appropriate paperwork, and how to safely collect a sample from a patient.
Colston’s previous positions within NHCCP overseeing the day-to-day operations of women’s health and the readiness clinic, on top of Colston’s experience in the San Diego Naval Medical Center, provided her with more than enough skill and knowledgeable expertise to be the team lead at the NHCCP respiratory clinic.
“I function as a nurse,” said Colston. “But I also work very closely with the preventative medicine, the corpsmen, and the doctors in a very team focused approach. As well as all the clinical care we provide, we also do a lot of administrative work and coordination with different departments and squadrons to make sure all the patients we test for COVID have a safe way to isolate, so they aren’t at risk for spreading the virus.”
For NHCCP personnel like Colston, the fight against COVID-19 has been non-stop since March. She said the way we stop the spread of the virus is by continuing to follow basic safety guidelines already implemented on the installation.
“The biggest thing is to social distance,” said Colston. “Keep at least six feet from those around you, and wear your mask. The mask isn’t there to protect you as much as it is to protect others, you could be asymptomatic and pass COVID-19 on to somebody without ever knowing you had it. And finally, wash your hands, if you can’t wash your hands for at least the length of the happy birthday song, something is wrong and at least use hand sanitizer.”
Although there may be stricter policies from service to service, Colston says that her family and friends are there for her no matter what and are always there to talk despite her not be able to see them in person.
“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, my life has changed in quite a few ways,” said Colston. “My friends are all in the medical field, so they understand how it goes, and my family is always just a phone call away but, it’s rough not being able to go see them and I certainly miss doing the things I love to do. I’m an environmentalist so using all this different protective equipment really hurts my heart.”
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on everyday life in the United States. It’s high time the fight against COVID-19 comes to an end, but, that can’t happen unless we all do our part. Wear your mask, wash your hands, and practice social distancing.

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