Fencer turns to sparring in ER to save lives in US

Olympian Ann Marsh-Scenic has stepped off her fencing mat and onto the frontlines as an ER doctor to help in USA’s fight against COVID-19.

Fencer Ann Marsh-Scenic helps intubate COVID-19 patients in the ER.   -  Special Arrangement

From the fencing mat to the ER room, it's been an unreal few weeks for Olympian and American foil fencer Ann Marsh-Scenic. The six-time National champion is part of the frontline effort to fight the deadly COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan.

While strategically striking her opponents was once part of her routine, Marsh-Scenic now handles one of the riskiest procedures in a now large-scale response to COVID-19-related complications - intubation.

The 48-year-old fencer has likened emergency medicine to her sport of choice. However, the similarities while handling the impact of the virus have been a lot more than she would have imagined.

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"When I intubate somebody, it's me and one nurse in the room and the ventilator, but everyone else stands outside," she said in an interview to the Detroit Free Press. “We're trying not to manually bag the patient because that is thought to aerosolise the virus.” This may cause the dispersion of moisture droplets that carry the virus into the air. Marsh-Scenic is used to life behind facial gear, having swapped her foil mask for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Fencing has not been pushed to the backseat though. Marsh-Scenic gets away from the stresses of the frontline by holding virtual workouts for over 30 fencers over Zoom at the Renaissance Fencing Club. Her husband, Anatolie, and children, Adeline and Lucas, are there to give her company too. Anatolie is a World Cupper himself and knows the paces of the sport too well.

Most importantly, Marsh-Scenic's juggling of medicine and fencing dates back to 1996 when she earned her Bachelor's degree from Columbia while training for the Olympics. She finished medical school at the University of Rochester before the 2000 Sydney Games.

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A member of the first US women's foil team to bag a medal at the Senior World Championships back in 2001, she is thankful that the community is banding together to try and get out of this crisis.

“We had many donations from the community. I even had a fencing coach, who is from Atlanta text me (and ask ) if they could send me PPE, which she had," the veteran fencer, who is currently stationed at St. Joseph Mercy in Oakland, said.

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