Oakcrest alumna Sophie Frelk '14 has been on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 as a nurse working for Inova Fairfax Hospital. Although it has been a difficult experience, her faith, family and friends have helped sustain her through it all.
When Sophie graduated from Oakcrest, it wasn't immediately obvious to her that nursing would be her profession, since she also had a deep interest in philosophy. Eventually, after teaching for a while and then discerning that healthcare was the right field for her, she enrolled in the nursing program at George Mason University and received her Bachelors in the Science of Nursing in 2019. When she was offered a nursing position at Fairfax Inova Medical Campus in the Medical-Surgical ICU, she accepted this exceptional yet challenging opportunity.
Her unit specializes in respiratory diseases and has helped pioneer work in a new treatment called Extracorporeal Membranous Oxygenation, or ECMO. Other areas of expertise include Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), Septic Shock, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and a variety of post-operative conditions. "Although I was unsure about starting my career in critical care, a somewhat unusual first step, it has more than exceeded my expectations," Sophie says. "I am surrounded by some of the most excellent healthcare workers in my profession, many of whom have been honored with awards and accolades by Fairfax Inova and the broader medical community. I am continually challenged to learn and grow in my role as a nurse, and each day is an opportunity for a deeper understanding of pathology and medicine."
When the pandemic began, the Medical-Surgical ICU where Sophie works was designated early on as the primary COVID unit at Inova Fairfax Medical Campus. As one of the foremost hospitals in metropolitan DC, Inova Fairfax took on treatment of a large part of the COVID population in Northern Virginia and was setting standards and protocols as situations arose. Sophie and her coworkers were facing the new virus head-on every day.
As the weeks rolled on from March to June, Sophie and her unit battled exhaustion, uncertainty, and fear. In spite of the many challenges, Sophie says that she has had anchors of hope and encouragement that have helped her weather the storm. Her family and friends have provided much love and support, and she also befriended the hospital chaplains and received spiritual nourishment from them. "So many wonderful things have come out of this pandemic, including a greater devotion to the sacraments, unity in families, and a deeper desire for friendship," Sophie notes.
Sophie says that every class she took at Oakcrest influenced her, but some of particular note were American Literature, Philosophy and Calculus because they awakened in her a deep passion for the subject. She was on the cross country team, participated in school plays, served on student government, and was a member of the Respect Life, Debate, Model UN, and Philosophy clubs. "My favorite memories at Oakcrest came from the moments I shared with my classmates, whether it was a great discussion after a thought-provoking class, or laughing hysterically by our lockers," she says.
As she looks back at her Oakcrest education, Sophie reflects on its lasting effects in her life: "The liberal arts gave me perpetual curiosity and a love of learning. Through the liberal arts I strive to remain faithful to the most fundamental convictions of who I am, not blindly but through thoughtful discernment of their truth. This gives me the stability to be sincerely open to new ideas and ways of understanding this world without losing my sense of self. The liberal arts education is, as its name implies, radically freeing."