Connecting the Dots from Cancer to Contact Tracing

Connecting the Dots from Cancer to Contact Tracing

Gretchen Baldwin has been helping Sweetwater County Public Health with contact tracing since November. Courtesy photo

Gretchen Baldwin has faced her fair share of difficulties in 2020. She’s also equally found a new sense of purpose and service in 2020.

Back in March, Baldwin was working at Sweetwater Pediatrics as a nurse. One day, her world took an unexpected turn as she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a rare cancer that is found in the lymphatic system of the immune system.

Suddenly, doctors appointments and rest began to occupy her schedule. Instead of helping others in her role as a nurse, she was now on the other end.

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“I took time off due to my weakened immune system, chemo treatments every other week and trying to focus on the healing process,” Baldwin said.

A long journey through the coming months finally brought good news in November. Baldwin was told that she would no longer have to endure chemo treatments, as she had made progress. Naturally, she shifted towards her old self. And although her health is still a priority, she is now focused on helping others through their own healing process.

Helping Others Heal

In November, Baldwin took a position as a contact tracer for Sweetwater County Public Health, who has hired additional staff in the recent months to help with COVID-19 contact tracing efforts. The growing list of positive cases means more work for the already busy staff.

“What inspired me to take the job was the fact that I was able to help out my community, help out Public Health and learn more about the virus as I was able to start working again,” Baldwin said.

Over the last month, Baldwin has reached out to many positive COVID-19 individuals in the community. Her day typically consists of a process that involves gathering a patients information and then sending them an isolation letter and other helpful documents that help identify those who have potentially been exposed.

“I send them their documents and educate them on when they will be released from isolation,” Baldwin said. “There are a lot of little steps that go into the process, but the main goal is to get the positive COVID-19 individual their isolation letter.”

The opportunity to help her community connect the dots and heal has brought an abundance of knowledge and experience in return.

“This experience has taught me to be nice to others,” Baldwin said. “I like the saying “Don’t shoot the messenger”, it has come into play very heavily during this pandemic and I think it is something everyone should take into consideration.”

If there’s been one overarching lesson, it’s been the fact that the virus impacts everyone differently.

“From this job you are able to see how the virus can impact different people in different ways, in ways you may not even expect it.”

~Gretchen Baldwin

Moving forward, Baldwin plans to continue to work as a contact tracer for as long as she can. The opportunity has been exciting and helping limit the spread of COVID-19

Overall, life is good for Baldwin. Finding the good in the bad hasn’t been easy, but it’s been insightful. And at this point, she’s simply grateful to wake up each day and live.

“I am very thankful for this opportunity I have been given,” Baldwin said.