McKenzie Coan, Maggie Steffens Offer, Receive Inspiration From Medical Workers Fighting Coronavirus

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Photos Courtesy: McKenzie Coan & SIPA USA

McKenzie Coan & Maggie Steffens participate in webinar with medical workers fighting the virus head on.

As the coronavirus continues to leave the world quarantined inside their homes, it has given people a lot of time to reflect on things they are grateful for and opportunities they have. For Paralympic swimmer McKenzie Coan and water polo Olympian Maggie Steffens, they were given the opportunity by the CG Sports Network to talk face to face (virtually) with medical workers at the George Washington Hospital in Washington DC to thank them for their tireless work.

Cejih (Yung), our agent, found that opportunity for us and that is right up my alley of things I’m passionate about,” Maggie Steffens said. “I think for me it was more of an opportunity to just share my gratitude and be able to tell them not necessarily face to face but as close as possible how much gratitude me and McKenzie wanted to share with them.”

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McKenzie Coan. Photo Courtesy: Harry How

“It was really amazing,” McKenzie Coan said. “Cejih created the segment ‘heroes to heroes’ and it gave us the opportunity to connect with George Washington University’s hospital in DC. We got to chat with all the workers in hospitals from doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists – basically all personnel. It gave us the opportunity to really thank them for everything they are doing right now. From working tirelessly day in and day out and putting themselves at risk during this pandemic. It was a really great opportunity to connect with them.”

Although the segment started by the CG Sports Network was titled “Heroes to Heroes,” both Coan and Steffens felt a little out of place by that title. Both have competed at the highest possible stage in their sport, with Steffens having won the last two team Olympic gold medals in water polo, and Coan having won three gold medals at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. But when speaking to the medical workers fighting COVID-19 head-on, they felt a little inadequate.

“It was kind of funny, Cejih opened it up about how cool it was to have Olympians inspire others and both McKenzie and I were like, ‘What? No, we are the ones gaining inspiration from these people right now,” Steffens said. “We were talking to doctors and nurses and everyone who was working in that hospital from the people supplying food and making sure things are clean, up to the person running the hospital – they all mean so much to us right now which was really cool to just share that.

“I definitely wish it was more interactive in the sense that it would have been cool to talk to them even more but obviously they are so busy so I am happy that we were able to connect and answer any questions and share our gratitude.”

Being able to share gratitude with the medical workers hit home especially for Coan; her father is a physician and is also helping with the fight against the virus. Although she lives in Baltimore, Coan has been spending the quarantine at her family home in Georgia, where she sees first hand experience of her dad working each and every day.

“He is in his office every day and testing people and treating people with it,” Coan said. “So it has been quite a unique experience to see it from that perspective. I’ve probably been home for about a month. It’s so different than when I was in Baltimore just watching it all on the news and now getting a first hand experience of him seeing patients is pretty insane.”

Coan has been wired to still wake up at 6 a.m. as if she was still going to morning practice, and this is when she can goodbye to her dad as he leaves to go to work for the day. She usually says things like “be safe” and “have a good day but more importantly be safe.” It’s scary for her to think, but it’s the reality of the profession, and it’s something that millions of families have to face during this time.

“It has truly given me a new found respect for his profession for sure.”

The main theme of the private webinar was dealing with adversity – something both Coan and Steffens have had to deal with in their sporting careers, and something that the hospital workers have had to deal with during this virus.

“They were able to ask us questions during the webinar and hear all of our experiences and journeys,” Coan said. “It could be from overcoming adversity that we have gone through to get to the top of the podium. It was coming together as a team and realizing we are a lot stronger when we come together than we are as individuals – I think that translated to what they are doing in the hospitals right now. I think it’s a really unique opportunity because they cheered us on and supported us for so many years.”

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Maggie Steffens. Photo Courtesy: CG Sports Network

“It was really cool for me because one of the stories McKenzie talked about as a Paralympian – she is in and out of the GW Hospital a lot,” Steffens said. “It was really cool to hear a little bit more about her story and how many people are on her team that are these health care workers. And for her to be able to talk about her personal experience and how much they mean to her hit on such a personal level. For me it is all about teamwork and they are the ultimate teammates – the healthcare workers. To think of it in that perspective was really really cool and it is so huge when you think about it – these men and women are there every day, those are our ultimate teammates and how cool is that?”

Even in this time, Coan and Steffens were able to give their own two cents of advice to the hospital workers. The pair shared some adversities they had to deal with in their athletic careers and how they got through it. They brought up navigating the stressful week that is the Olympic Games and how the lead-up can be so intense. So much time and effort goes into one specific race or match, and one mistake can be the difference between gold and silver.

Coan and Steffens both have strong teams they can lean on during the Olympics, and were able to convey that to the hospital workers. Coan has a condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which means she has brittle bones and is more susceptible to injury, so she constantly relies on doctors to keep her healthy. Steffens is one of the best water polo players in the world and the United States national team has not lost in nearly nine years.

“I think one thing that stuck out the most to me was about them asking us ‘how do you persevere through that?’ and how do you see the end of the light at the end of this tunnel,” Coan said. “It was important, especially coming from my journey and my condition. I have had a lot of experience with having a setback come out of nowhere like a broken bone. And it can seem like a really really long road when you are dealing with a broken femur and coming out of surgery. We were able to tell them that progress is not going to be this amazing thing that comes all at once.

“And that’s the same deal with this situation – you have to be able to pull yourself out of this. You have to think in terms of a long-term goal. In order to get there you have to have that belief you are going to get through it. I think that hit home the most with me.”

Overall, Coan and Steffens wanted to share their immense gratitude to the hospital workers for the tireless efforts they have put in to fight the virus head on. And it was just one thing that both of them have found in this quarantine to help out those around them.

“It is really cool to see people do small acts of kindness for their communities,” Steffens said. “I know one of my teammates has dropped off food or baked goods so I think everybody is doing their way of reaching out which is amazing. That is what this is all about too – how we can all share little acts of kindness in our own little ways.”

“Throughout my entire career and my life really, I have relied on doctors to get me where I’m at and to keep me healthy,” Coan said. “So to have the opportunity when they need it the most to come on and be able to say thank you and ‘we’re rooting for you’ was something that was beyond incredible for me.

“I think that right now it is so important to express to our health care workers, especially after seeing what my dad is going through right now and how hard he is working, to be able to thank them for everything they are doing and offer even just a little bit of support. Something my dad said, ‘just a little bit of support goes a long way’ and that is our role right now. That is how we can make a difference – to help them while they are making a difference in the world right now.”


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