Former UFC featherweight and ROC lightweight champion Phillipe Nover retired from fighting early in 2007, but has worked as a nurse since 2005, earning an Associate’s Degree in 2005, a Bachelor’s in 2010, and a Master’s last year. Now 36, Nover had been working in cardiology, but has been crossing over to the emergency room (ER) and the intensive care unit (ICU) due to the demands of the SARS-CoV-2 global epidemic.
A number of medical professionals have been fired for speaking out over deplorable conditions in healthcare facilities due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, but the hospital where Nover is employed is apparently not muzzling their staff. He describes New York as having been unprepared for the outbreak, most notably with regard to personal protective equipment (PPE) and tests for SARS-CoV-2. Even now Nover says tests are only being administered for patients in critical condition, with identifying symptoms. Due to the shortage, even Nover and his fellow healthcare workers are not being tested.
Sheltering in place and other social distancing methods are intended to flatten the curve of the outbreak, so that the number of cases does not overwhelm the healthcare system. This now famous graph on Flattening The Curve assumes the same number of cases, but in the less terrible scenario, the number of cases does not overwhelm healthcare capacity, leading to deaths that would otherwise be preventable.
And the dotted line of healthcare capacity can lower if too many healthcare professionals fall ill at any one point. The situation Nover describes is approaching that critical line, with the ER operating at between 80 and 100 percent, and the ICU maxed out.
“Last week, I had a patient who had a legitimate heart attack, we went in and put a stent in and there’s no ICU bed," he said. "The ICU units are full of COVID-19 patients. On top of that, I wouldn’t really want my relative to be in an ICU after just having a heart attack being next to a patient who has COVID-19. …. It’s quickly spreading and it’s manageable, but at some point, it won’t be manageable unless these numbers come down.”
A BJJ black belt, Nover still trains, or was. He describes MMA and Jiu-Jitsu training as the worst possible activity when it comes to transmitting the virus, noting that staph and other diseases break out in gyms regularly.
“I don’t blame [fighters who are still training]," he said. "If I was younger like when I was 24, and first in the UFC, I would probably be training, too. … The chances of these young, healthy athletes getting sick is pretty low. ... They’ll probably just self-quarantine for two weeks but the big risk is them contracting it, being a carrier, and then spreading it to people who aren’t young athletes.
“How about their parents? How about people around them? … I haven’t even visited my parents. I could visit them but I chose not to. I told them just to stay home. … I’ve seen such horrific stuff when it comes to COVID-19, patients dying in front of me, gasping for air. It’s not a sight that I want to see anymore and I think just quarantining and staying home would be helpful.”
The UFC is intent on holding shows as soon as humanly possible, starting with UFC 249 on April 18.
“I see the UFC for what it is,” said Nover. “They’re a corporate company. They have to put shows up by any means necessary. … Maybe Dana White can throw a show if he gets 250 tests and tests everyone and they’re all negative. And then they can all have a show.”
MMA fighters are rightly lauded for risking their health in pursuit of their compelling craft. But nurses on the frontlines of the novel coronavirus pandemic are risking their lives for the common good. Nover says he is probably carrying the virus now.
“As healthcare professionals in any environment within in the hospital, we’re what society counts on,” said Nover. “We have to provide healthcare to the community. So when it comes down to risking ourselves, we do it every day.
“I do see co-workers and friends, who have contracted the virus. My immediate co-workers, no one is in critical condition at this point. I’ve seen some nurses that got bad but not to the point of getting intubated. As far as putting myself on the line, I thought about it initially but I said sign me up. I got into healthcare to help people and this really is what our calling should be.”