Mills Godwin’s Berkeley got first-hand look at pandemic’s nursing home impact

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 11:39 PM EDT
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - Mills Godwin senior outfielder Kyle Berkeley is no stranger to overcoming challenges, as they present themselves often on the baseball field. His part-time job at St. Mary’s Woods nursing home, however, has given him tests of its own.

“I really wanted to avoid COVID. My sister has down syndrome,” Berkeley said. “My mom was like ‘hey, they’re hiring. I think they’ll probably be doing a good job of keeping COVID out of there.’”

But that was not the case. As many have heard, nursing homes were some of the hardest hit places as it related to the pandemic. That put Kyle on the front lines with some of the disease’s most vulnerable patients. After an outbreak, he suddenly saw just how deadly the virus could be.

“I was serving them meals and then one day the manager came in and so-and-so passed away,” Berkeley recalled. “It was just like, dang, I served her one of her last meals. It was just hard to deal with.”

At that point, Kyle’s mission became to be a positive presence in the lives of the residents he assisted, even if it was just providing a person with whom they could interact.

“They weren’t able to see their family, even their own grandchildren for awhile. They weren’t letting them see them outside,” said Berkeley. “Me being able to go in there and put a smile on their face everyday meant a lot to me and I could tell it meant a lot to them.”

“For an 18-year old kid to be doing what he was doing, a lot of adults can’t do that,” added Mills Godwin head baseball coach Josh Gentry. “I just told him to come out here and use the baseball field as an escape for him and he certainly has.”

But before he could utilize that escape, the senior outfielder came down with coronavirus himself. It kept him sidelined for longer than most people his age, as breathing issues, fatigue and weakness lingered, forcing him to miss the first three weeks of baseball workouts.

“I had to see a cardiologist, get chest x-rays and everything, so I had it pretty bad,” he said. “Me being in the younger age group, I wasn’t expecting to have it that bad, but I ended up getting it pretty bad.”

“He couldn’t run, he couldn’t catch his breath and I was kind of worried that he might take awhile to get acclimated, and then all of a sudden he just kind of powered through and next thing you know, he started the year hitting .900,” said Gentry.

Now Kyle is back to 100 percent and has been on an offensive tear during the Eagles’ first four games. The experience throughout the last several months has left him with a new outlook as he moves forward.

“Don’t take anything for granted. You never know when your last day is here, what gets taken away. A whole year and a half school- just gone like that,” he remarked. “You never know what can happen on any given day.”

Berkeley will attend James Madison in the fall and study computer science. He will not pursue baseball at the college level, choosing instead to focus on academics.

Mills Godwin’s baseball team is out to a 4-0 start and will travel to Deep Run on Friday for a 6:00 showdown with the rival Wildcats.

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