In only a few months, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif went from winning the Super Bowl to cleaning out bedpans and prepping medication trays in a Quebec long-term care centre.
The 29-year-old 320-pound guard for the Kansas City Chiefs answered a recent call for health care professionals in his home province and traded his jersey for scrubs. He was the first medical school grad to ever play in the NFL.
In an as-told-to piece that appeared in Sports Illustrated, Duvernay-Tardif said that he still hasn’t started his residency or declared a specialty but times are tough right now and every warm body with healthcare knowledge counts.
After returning home to Montreal from a post-Super Bowl sailing trip around the Caribbean islands, Duvernay-Tardif decided he wanted to help. At first, he took on the role of a spokesperson and used his platform to distribute experts’ recommendations to his fans but, last week, he saw the Quebec government's call of healthcare workers and decided to do more and was assigned to a long-term care centre. Quebec has been the hardest hit province in Canada by the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 1,500 deaths, and its long-term care centres have been under particular scrutiny.
On April 24—82 days removed from playing in the Super Bowl—Duvernay-Tardif went to work.
“My shift started at 7:30 a.m. I found out that I would be working for now in more of a nursing role, helping relieve the workers who have already been in place,” Duvernay-Tardif said. “There’s so much that needs to happen just to visit with every patient—masks donned and hands washed and equipment like gloves and visors tugged on and off and thrown away. I handled a medication cart, making sure to administer the right dosage and in the proper way. Honestly, I was drained after—and looking forward to going back.”
First drafted in 2014, Duvernay-Tardif has been playing full time with the Chiefs since 2015 and signed a five-year contract worth $42 million in 2017. During his offseasons, Duvernay-Tardif continued his studies at McGill University and graduated with a doctorate in medicine in 2018.
As of Monday morning, there have been 46,895 cases of COVID-19 with 2,560 killed. Quebec has over 14,000 cases alone.
Duvernay-Tardif has received a bit of coverage, especially in Canada, for his unique story. So it wasn’t too surprising when, while in training earlier this month, his instructor recognized him. "Bro, you just won the Super Bowl," exclaimed his teacher. In his Sports Illustrated piece, Duvernay-Tardif stated that, obviously, there was quite a difference between playing for a Super Bowl and going to work in a long-term care facility during a pandemic.
“Playing in the Super Bowl vs. heading back to the medical system during a pandemic is totally different. Back in February, I knew that 100 million-plus people were going to be watching, and I wanted to win,” he said. “When you’re going in to help it’s more about your duty as a doctor and a citizen. It’s not the time to be the hero and be impulsive. You’ve gotta do it the right way.”
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