Jodi Griffith – Unsung Hero

Jodi Griffith, a Beckley resident, is a registered nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC) Women's and Children's Hospital. Her work during the pandemic has earned her recognition as an Unsung Hero by the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS).

While attending Liberty High School in Glen Daniel, one of Jodi's classes required her to submit a college application for a grade. Jodi had not been planning to go to college, but she applied to Bluefield State's nursing program and was accepted, so she decided to give it a try.

Jodi has a condition called torticollis, a rare disorder where the neck muscles contract and cause the head to twist to one side, so DRS was able to help her with college expenses, nursing uniforms or scrubs, and other services to help her prepare for employment.

After graduating in 2018, Jodi got a nursing job at a local hospital but a car accident involving a drunk driver left her with a broken neck just a couple of months after she began working and ultimately, she lost that job.

However, Jodi did not let that setback stop her. In nursing school, she knew she wanted to work with babies, and she has worked really hard to meet that goal. Jodi had two nephews that spent six months each in the NICU, which carved a special place in her heart and made a lasting impression on her career choice.

Working in the NICU at CAMC, Jodi takes care of premature babies or those that have respiratory distress, other anomalies or genetic birth defects, or have been born addicted to drugs. She works a 12-hour shift at a time, where she has her own patient assignment of specific babies that she cares for, including feeding and bathing them, taking vital signs, administering medicine, and more. Friends assume that she gets to hold the babies to comfort them, but many are on ventilators or life support and it's rare that she gets to do that.

With the pandemic, Jodi has to wear a mask the entire time she is at work. Certain invasive procedures, like suctioning a patient, or if a patient is suspected to be positive for COVID-19, then she is required to wear an N-95 mask, a face shield, boot covers, a gown, gloves and a bonnet.

If a mother is positive for COVID-19 or is suspected to be positive, the baby has to be quarantined as soon as it's born until test results confirm or negate the diagnosis. If a baby is sick, then it immediately goes to the NICU. Jodi volunteered to work on the NICU COVID Team. She's single and does not worry about bringing the virus home to anyone.

In the beginning, Jodi was working more hours but later her hours got cut, which has created undue stress and financial concerns. At work, Jodi and her coworkers used to meet in the lounge area for their lunch break, which was a stress reliever for them. However, they are no longer allowed to do that because of the pandemic.

To deal with stress, Jodi likes to relax at home with her two cats, Memphis and Hamlet. She does like to spend time with her friends in small groups and FaceTime with family that she can't visit.

Kelsey Smith, DRS Rehabilitation Counselor, nominated Jodi for the Unsung Heroes recognition because of her hard work and dedication that ultimately led her to serve others.

Smith explained that Jodi had accomplished so much when she graduated from college with her nursing degree and almost immediately went to work in the field. But when the car accident left Jodi with a broken neck, she had to start over again — hospitalizations, medical appointments, physical therapy, and searching for a new job. Jodi actually started interviewing for jobs before she was out of her neck brace.

Jodi was surprised by the recognition but definitely appreciates it. She's grateful for the assistance she received from DRS that helped her on her career path and she's very happy to be working with babies.