She Wears the Scrubs. He's her Biggest Fan.
The Story of a Coronavirus Team
By Jerry Crasnick
Courtesy of Jordan Luplow
While Jordan Luplow works out in preparation for a baseball season short on promises, his girlfriend deals with an uncompromising reality. Holli Wynns is an emergency room nurse at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, where the coronavirus has exposed her to the challenges of life in a global pandemic. She works three straight 12-hour shifts, takes four days off, then puts on the scrubs and does it all over again.
Luplow, an outfielder with the Cleveland Indians, spends two hours each morning lifting weights and taking part in baseball activities with Joe Musgrove and Phillip Evans of the Pirates. After that, he does whatever is necessary to support Holli -- from cooking breakfast to doing laundry to simply listening and giving her space to unwind at the end of an exhausting day.
She’s grateful for the empathy. And he appreciates her contributions -- and her sacrifices -- even when there’s no #NursesWeek2020 hashtag attached.
“It’s nerve-wracking,’’ Luplow said. “Every day she comes home you say, ‘Is she going to have a cough or feel bad?’ That’s the risk she takes when she takes care of these patients. She took an oath and she’s sticking to that oath, helping people out.
“She’s such a positive person, regardless of what happens in the hospital. There are days when she comes home and didn’t have the best day. Someone may have died or something might have happened, and she has to just wear it. She can’t sit and dwell on it, because she has to go back to work the next day and focus on another patient. It takes a lot of courage to do that and not affect everyone else in her life.’’
Luplow, 26, grew up in Visalia, Calif., in the San Joaquin Valley, and was the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year at Fresno State in 2014. Among his college teammates: Future Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge and Orioles catcher Austin Wynns, Holli’s older brother.
The Luplow and Wynns families became friends during the Fresno State years, but Jordan and Holli didn’t begin dating until late 2018. Before they officially became a couple, Jordan had to win over her protective older brother.
“Austin was like, ‘Stay away,’’’ Jordan said, laughing. “It was tough. We had to go to a bar and have a couple of drinks over it. I had to make my pitch and present myself. It was good, though. She was on board. It’s cool that she knows the life we live and how tough it can be.’’
After shifting from third base to the outfield in college, Jordan signed with Pittsburgh as a third-round draft pick in 2014. The Pirates sent him to Cleveland as part of a five-player trade in November 2018, and he warmed to his new surroundings by slugging .551 with 15 homers in 225 at-bats for the Indians last season.
Holli, also 26, made some adjustments of her own in pursuit of a nursing career. She had initially planned to work in labor and delivery, but changed course during her final semester of nursing school at San Diego State. On her first day in the emergency room, she was thrown into the fray while the hospital staff saved the life of an overdose patient. The combination of adrenaline and teamwork struck a chord with her, and amid the chaos, she knew that she had found her calling.
“Ever since I was young, I loved helping people,’’ Holli said. “I loved listening to people and their problems. It was something that was close to my heart. I entered nursing school thinking I was going to help moms deliver babies, but my first day in the emergency room was amazing -- just seeing how the whole team reacted in a split-second. From that moment, I decided, ‘This is where I need to be.’ ’’
Since March, Holli has split her time between Jordan’s place in San Diego’s Mission Bay and her parents’ home in nearby Poway. Regardless of venue, the post-shift decontamination routine is the same: She leaves her shoes at the front door, tiptoes into the garage, throws her scrubs in a trash bag and heads upstairs to take a long, hot shower before returning to the real world.
At Sharp Memorial, precautions abound. Patients go through a screening process before admission, and those exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms are taken to tents outside the hospital leading to a separate entrance. The more severe cases proceed to a “hot zone,’’ where doctors and nurses wear special PAPR (powered air purifying respirator) hoods attached to a blower that pumps in positive pressure air as they treat patients with the most acute breathing problems.
“Are they the most comfortable? No,’’ Holli said. “But I’m very thankful for what our hospital has provided us. My heart goes out to people in New York and other places where they’ve had to work under such severe conditions. We’re super fortunate to have all the equipment and everything we need here. I know that’s not the case everywhere.’’
The San Diego community is with them in spirit. When Jordan rides his bike in the area, or Holli goes for runs in her free time, they see an array of “Thank You, Health Care Workers’’ or “We Love You, Nurses’’ signs hanging from apartment windows.
Some local residents have donated face masks or hot meals to the hospital. And it’s not uncommon for a certain Indians outfielder to drop by the Sharp Memorial emergency room and bring Holli Wynns a lunch he’s cooked on the backyard barbecue.
“Jordan does anything he can to make my life easier, because he knows I’m going into a stressful environment every time I go to work,’’ Holli said. “He’s stepped up and been right by my side the whole process.’’
On National Nurses Week, it’s worth noting that Holli isn’t the only health care worker in the family. Jordan’s sister Jessica is an MRI technician back home in Fresno. Across the country in Baltimore, Austin Wynns’ girlfriend is an intensive care nurse who is studying to be a certified registered nurse anesthetist.
From opposite coasts, they’re one big, supportive group with the same apprehensions and the same mission.
“Everyone is going through a trying time and has their different stories,’’ Holli said, “but I’ve come to realize we’re all in this together. We’re going to be grieving, healing and growing together, and hopefully we come out of this stronger and more prepared if something like this were to ever happen again.
“It’s going to take time. The best advice I can offer is to try and be positive and stay patient. That’s all we can do right now.’’