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Three-time cancer survivor, Morehead State alum McKenzie Hicks now helps patients battle COVID-19


By Matt Schabert
Morehead State University

Morehead State soccer alum McKenzie Hicks is used to battles. On the field and off.

The Ft. Thomas native and Highlands High School soccer standout came to campus in 2009 and has survived cancer not once, not twice, but three times. She also helped the Eagles battle their way to the 2010 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament title.

Now she is helping patients battle illness, including COVID-19, at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Hicks is a registered nurse on the Vascular Access Team.

McKenzie Hicks

“I have always wanted to be a RN since I was little because my mom is a RN, and I thought that was so awesome that she got to take care of patients for a living,” she said. “I am also a three-time cancer survivor so that also motivated me to go in to the medical field and take care of other people just like my nurses took care of me.”

Hicks has turned back Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, originally being diagnosed as a sophomore at Morehead State in 2011. She had to cut her playing career short but still was a crucial member of the program.

With all the battles and situations Hicks has gone through and made her stronger, she admits the pandemic has been tough but credits her hospital’s dedication to keeping its staff safe.

“As a RN on the Vascular Access Team, we go all over the hospital to draw blood for labs, place IVs, and place PICC lines in patients that need more access points for medications and IV fluids,” Hick said. “We also access patient’s ports and troubleshoot central line problems.”

“Those patients are some of the sickest patients in the hospital and also includes the patients with COVID-19,” she added. “As a precaution, we have to wear masks at all times during our 12-hour shift and have been fit-tested to wear N95 masks during COVID-19 patient encounters.”

Hicks also says that her shifts have had to chance during these times.

McKenzie Hicks helped Morehead State win the 2010 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship.

“Since the VAT is such a small and specialized department, we implemented a different staffing model for the past seven weeks (in order to limit possible employee exposure) where half of our team worked for two weeks and then had two weeks off work while still getting paid,” she said. “It has been amazing how supportive the hospital has been and has really eased the burden of worrying about bringing home the virus to our loved ones.”

And speaking of loved ones, her fiancé happens to be familiar with Morehead State athletics, too. Hicks is engaged to former Eagle baseball standout Andrew Deeds, who set numerous records during his career from 2008-12. The couple had planned a weeding for May 9 but has since been postponed until July.

Hicks says all her medical experiences and the situation currently happening has made her sit back and realize just how blessed she is.

“These experiences have made me realize how blessed I am to be healthy and to have healthy friends and family. I am also grateful to still have a job during these uncertain times,” she said.

She also says she has learned some new skills.

“I have learned to cook and bake a lot of different recipes that I have never made time for before the pandemic,” she stated.

But one of the main ideas that has stuck with her since her time as an Eagle with head coach Warren Lipka has been teamwork.

“Teamwork is everything,” she said. “It’s important because of communication and knowing that everyone is working towards the same goal. Being a RN, I am always working closely with my coworkers to come up with the best, safest, individualized plan of care for each patient.”

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