Maggie DeBolt – Unsung Hero

Maggie DeBolt, a 28-year-old doctor from Huntington, is being recognized as an Unsung Hero by the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) for her work during the pandemic.

Maggie graduated from Marshall University Medical School in 2019 and she now works for Marshall Pediatrics as a resident physician.

As a second-year resident, Maggie's responsibilities are vast, and her schedule is rarely constant. She rotates between the Pediatrics Clinic, where she sees patients in a setting similar to a typical doctor's office, and the pediatrics floor of Cabell Huntington Hospital, where she works with patients who are hospitalized, including those in the pediatric ICU.

In the hospital, she works 12-hour shifts, which alternate between days and nights every couple of weeks. Patients range in age from newborn to 18 years old.

Maggie is no stranger to hospitals. At the age of nine, she was diagnosed with severe asthma. A simple cold frequently turned into pneumonia because of her breathing issues and it was not unusual for her to end up in the hospital. Breathing treatments became a part of her everyday routine.

Because of the severity of Maggie's condition, she became a client of DRS while she was at South Charleston High School. After graduating in 2010, she went on to Marshall University, graduating in 2014 with a degree in exercise physiology. She started medical school in the fall of 2015.

DRS provided financial assistance to Maggie while in college, including help with tuition, books and two of her board exams. Maggie believes the frequency of her illnesses lessened somewhat when she was in college. But in her first year of residency, she was sick a lot. She was around many kids with different illnesses and they passed them on to her. However, Maggie feels like the exposure to so many germs boosted her immune system.

And then, along comes COVID-19, which created even more issues and concerns for someone with such a serious respiratory illness. To protect herself, Maggie must wear a mask and eye protection during her 12-hour shifts, which can be difficult for somebody with breathing limitations. Other protective equipment is required, depending on the situation and the type of procedure she is doing.

Working with kids poses additional challenges. Most do not or cannot wear a mask, depending on the circumstances, and examinations require close proximity between the doctor and the patient. "This morning we had to wrestle a kid to look in the back of his throat, so dad's holding him down, I'm squeezing his cheeks and then they cough right in your face," explained Maggie.

The pandemic has definitely created additional stress for Maggie. Of course, there is concern that contracting COVID-19 could be worse for her because of her respiratory illness, but she knows it causes others in her life, like her mom, to worry more about her, which produces extra stress. Her husband is a firefighter/paramedic in Huntington, and he risks exposure due to the nature of his job as well.

To cope with the stress, Maggie spends free time with her husband, Jonathan, and their golden retriever, Sadie. She also likes to work out at Orangetheory Fitness.

Senior Rehabilitation Counselor Jennifer Lockhart nominated Maggie for the Unsung Heroes award. Lockhart has tremendous respect and admiration for Maggie as she worked so hard to accomplish her goals and now in her role as a physician on the frontlines during the pandemic, despite her health condition.

Maggie is honored to receive the compliment. During these unprecedented circumstances, she is grateful to see people expressing greater appreciation for healthcare workers in general.

Maggie's future goal is to work in a clinic where she can see outpatient pediatric patients. She believes her long-term respiratory issues help her to better understand her young patients with other ongoing health problems and she wants to use that for their benefit.