VFL helping in fight against COVID-19

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)-- Mike Stowell was an All-SEC Lineman for the Big Orange back in the early 1990’s, so he knows a thing or two about fighting through adversity.

Stowell is using his skills now for a different battle, one in which the demands are great in the race to save lives amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stowell told WVLT Sports Director Rick Russo, ”There were times where we’re installing something and as soon as we leave, they’re wheeling a patient in. Compressed timelines from months down to hours and days, that has been the big challenge for us and the hospitals as well.”

Stowell is a regional manager for GE Healthcare. His company produces a variety of medical equipment, including ventilators which are in high demand nationwide. It’s equipment hospitals like UT Medical Center have on standby, but not as many as you might think.

”Ventilators are not a largely used item to begin with. I think of UT Medical Center, they’ve got 62 in the whole hospital, so if you get an influx of patients, and you have to put them on ventilators it’s not like any company has them sitting around in the shelf, you have to make them. We saw in a four-week span demand for what we would typically do in 10 years," said Stowell.

The region Stowell covers here in the Southeast includes Louisiana. He said New Orleans has been one of the area’s hardest hit by the coronavirus, something which puts even more caregivers at risk of contracting the illness.

"Due to Mardis Gras in New Orleans, that was the basic incubator that catapulted so many COVID-19 patients and from that point on it was a mad scramble to try and help these hospitals. They’re having to put in extremely long hours. Everything they touch could have the virus on it," Stowell said. "It’s a constant stress in everything you touch, every interaction you have, 'is this gonna be the person that gets me sick'. You can’t say enough positive things about what they’re doing and the work they’re putting in."

During Stowell’s career, Tennessee won 38 games, and he was a member of two SEC Championship teams. He’ll tell you those Vols accomplished that by staying the course, something he feels is critical if we’re to make strides in the weeks to come, "From my learnings and anybody involved with athletics, you’re gonna get knocked down. You think of the maxims, if things don’t go your way, you put on more steam. Control what you can control. You gotta be self motivated and those people will rise to the top.

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