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‘That’s what nurses do': Nurse practitioner survives cancer battle, joins COVID-19 fight

Rayenll Odom answered call to help despite her own health issues

FLORESVILLE, TEXAS – A nurse practitioner is ready to suit up and save lives once again. Raynell Odom was set to open her own practice, but in April, she flew to New York City to join in the fight against COVID-19 despite her health issues.

“In my family, the joke is, ‘If you don’t get cancer, you’ll get diabetes. Well, I got both,” Odom said.

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In 2006, Odom battled breast cancer, and she currently lives with diabetes. Odom said her daughter-in-law, Jonell, a registered nurse, encouraged her to travel to New York City.

“It’s just the way I am. I’m not afraid of anything,” Odom said.

Odom followed Jonell five days later and was placed at Elmendorf Hosptial in Brooklyn, where she worked alongside other health care workers from around the world.

Suited up for a new battle, Odom brought comfort to patients in the telemetry unit, where many were critical.

“I could hold their hand and smile with my eyes, and that was the extent of our communication,” Odom said.

Odom and Jonell returned home to Floresville in late May and was excited to reunite with her family. She had plans to open her own practice, but cases surged across the state.

Odom said she was ready to answer the call to help again.

“I’m not a good girl to have time on my hands,” she said.

Odom signed up to travel down to the Rio Grande Valley, where hospitals are facing a strain because of the virus, but she said she is following her instinct.

“That’s what nurses do. That’s just what we do. It’s how we’re wired,” Odom said.

Odom understands the risks of being on the frontlines but said she is right where she belongs.

“I would never ever in my whole life entertain the idea of any other profession,” she said.

Odom overcame breast cancer, and her diabetes has been managed with a healthy diet and supplements.

She encourages the community to do their part by practicing social distancing and wearing face masks.