On the front lines: Roanoke nurse and mom of four treats COVID-19 patients on USNS Comfort

Carilion nurse left husband, four kids behind to work on the front lines

ROANOKE, Va. – A Carilion nurse is patiently waiting to be able to return to Roanoke after serving on the USNS Comfort in New York City.

Tracy Kidd is not new to serving others, but in March, she was called on for a different kind of mission. She decided to board the naval hospital ship setting sail for the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This was my first time ever being on a ship. This was my first deployment ever so there was a lot of firsts for me here,” said Kidd, who is a hospital corpsman 2nd class in the Navy Reserves.

The USNS Comfort wasn't originally sent to treat COVID-19 patients, but days after arriving, that plan changed and so did Kidd.

“I had to get over missing my family. I had to get over all those emotions that I had with that. It was time to focus on why I came to do this. It was time to focus on what had to be done,” Kidd said.

For her husband and four children back home, ignoring those fears wasn't as easy.

“I was kind of terrified because it’s not like an enemy you can see,” Kidd’s husband, Hunter Kelley said. “Any time they’d fall or get hurt, they’d cry for momma. She’s the nurse, she doctors them up.”

While Kidd's Carilion coworkers took care of Easter and a meal train for her family, she focused on the mission at hand.

“Learned that I can handle a lot more than I thought I could,” Kidd said.

She said it was a humbling experience and one her family couldn't be more proud of.

“I wouldn’t pick anybody else in an emergency situation or on the spot thinking for health care. I’m glad those patients were able to be under her care,” Kelley said.

Her sacrifices may last a while longer, but now there’s a new normal on the horizon.

“I might come back with a few more gray hairs than I left with,” Kidd said.

The USNS Comfort returned to Virginia on Wednesday. Kidd now has to quarantine for two weeks before she’s able to come back home to Roanoke.

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