Nurse who's worked during diphtheria, cholera, and ebola outbreaks now tackles COVID-19 frontlines

Nurse who's worked during diphtheria, cholera, and ebola outbreaks now tackles COVID-19 frontlines
Posted at 4:36 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 19:22:03-04

BOISE — A nurse who's worked on the frontlines during diphtheria, cholera, and the ebola outbreaks is a nurse you want to have work during the coronavirus pandemic on our home turf.

Luckily, that nurse exists, and her name is Molly Knight.

She is possibly one of the most prepared nurses in the nation when it comes to working during a pandemic. Knight's first trip abroad with the Samaritan's First group landed her in Bangladesh to serve in the middle of the diphtheria outbreak. The moment she stepped off the plane, she went to work at the world's largest refugee camp.

"I don't know the numbers, but we had people lined up, I mean its 1.5 million people in this refugee camp now, but we saw people nonstop," said Knight.

She worked for 30 days in the Kutapalong refugee camp at the Diphtheria Treatment Center in Bangladesh. She was simultaneously treating a measles outbreak as well in the area.

"We also saw a lot of moms with measles at the same time because if you can imagine these people are living in terrible, cramped conditions, so highly contagious diseases spread fast," said Knight.

It was hard but essential work. It wouldn't be the last time she worked during an outbreak, not even her second to last time.

"My second trip was Bangladesh again the same year, 2018 and I was actually sent there for a cholera outbreak," said Knight,

"cholera [is spread] through water, and it was monsoon season there, so we were expecting it."

The other outbreak Knight has worked during is the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Now she's back in Idaho treating the coronavirus pandemic on her home turf. The various outbreaks she's seen can't necessarily be compared, though, given those countries don't have the resources as we do.

"I don't know about worse or better [outbreak], but we do have a lot more resources in this country to deal with it than going overseas and dealing with the diphtheria outbreak, they don't have resources," said Knight,

"here we could say we need ten more ventilators, and we could probably get those whereas in Bangladesh, you don't have, you can't get IVs and stuff on the streets."

Knight works at Saint Alphonsus in Nampa, where patients have tested positive for COVID-19. The skills she learned abroad, like preserving personal protective equipment (PPE), are vastly important.

Another big lesson she's brought back with her is remaining calm in a high-stress situation.

"When I'm overseas in Bangladesh, or the Congo, one of the biggest things we saw was fear," said Knight, "you know their fear of the government, a lot of them have never had medical care in any way, and then here we come in foreign to them providing medical care they don't know,"

"I think same here, one of the biggest things right now is fear on both sides," said Knight, "there's a lot of fear, and I'm just trying as a nurse personally to hopefully just alleviate that a little bit."

Molly said all the nurses she's worked with, both abroad and here in Idaho, have the same work ethic and goal.

"I'm not anything special, but with a team, we come together, and we can do it together," said Knight.

Knight was asked to respond to other areas like New York and Italy to help with COVID-19, but she's staying local right now to help out her community. She says that she wants to travel again to help whenever the next disaster or need comes up..