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out of touch: covid stories from wa

Rachael Lynch

When COVID-19 hit Perth, Rachael Lynch was celebrating being international goalkeeper of the year and playing her 200th game. A registered nurse: she quickly stepped off the field and onto the frontlines to fulfil what she calls a “moral duty.”

Out of Touch documents the unique experiences of Western Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic that hit Australia in early 2020.

When COVID-19 hit Perth, Rachael Lynch was celebrating being international goalkeeper of the year and playing her 200th game. As a registered nurse: she quickly stepped off the field and onto the frontlines to fulfil what she calls a “moral duty.” As she took off her goalie mask, she regained an opportunity to be Rachael: a person, friend, sister, and daughter. She brings us into challenging moments to keep Western Australians healthy, the joy of afternoon cycles with girlfriends, and reflecting on her next career move.

Copyright © 2020 Rachael Lynch

This story and corresponding images have been licensed to the Centre for Stories and the State Library of Western Australia by the Storyteller. For reproduction and distribution of this story/image please contact the Centre for Stories. 

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Biography/ History: Funded by the State Library of Western Australia. This collection of stories, documents, experiences of the COVID 19 pandemic that hit Australia in early 2020. The COVID 19 pandemic led to the declaration of a state of emergency in Western Australia on the 16th of March.

WA went into lockdown between the months of March to May, with further restrictions continuing for months after. During this time, events were cancelled, schools shut down and parks became overcrowded. Thousands of individuals, businesses, communities and organizations were severely impacted as they were forced to work from home social distance and book emergency flights.

This collection, produced by the Centre for Stories in Northbridge, Western Australia, explores these unprecedented effects and contributes a record of this remarkable time in history. This interview features veteran Hockeyroos Olympian jewel Commonwealth Games gold medallist and nurse Rachel Lynch.


Rachel Lynch: You know, I’ve achieved a lot of things in my career and over 14 years, you know, gold medals, com games, Olympics and all of that. Some of my patients eventually will find out, but most don’t know. They just know of me as a nurse and hopefully a really good nurse.


And yes, I’m in the mining company. I’m just Rachel, the girl that’s looking after the COVID testing. And it’s not that I don’t want to share that other part, but it’s also just, I guess knowing that that’s not the only side of me.


But then on the flip side, during this time, I’ve sort of realized that if that comes up in conversation, people, oh, wow, that’s pretty cool. And they’re impressed. But it’s like, it’s not how I got my job or it’s not why people connect with me in the workplace or why they want to be friends, or why they think I’m doing a good job. It’s none of that like; It’s all the other things that sort of help to create you into the person that’s doing a good job at the workplace or whatever. You’re just another normal person, and I’m not trying to take away from my own achievements, but anyone’s achievements and what they do in sport.

I was fortunate. I grew up with parents who knew nothing about hockey and still don’t. So, they were my parents. They were at the end of the game. They gave me a hug and I’ve even gone to that level with my mum.


Now she knows not to talk about the game afterwards and she’s just there to support me and; and I love that you’re just another normal person and I’m not trying to take away from my own achievements, but anyone’s achievements and what they do in sport but does it necessarily help you? No, it’s the skills that help you and the different things you’ve picked up along the way, dealing with people and pressure and time management and all of those skills that are going to help you after. It’s not the medals or the achievements.


It was obviously the start of the COVID, but not to the extent of what we’re going through now. You know, no one was sort of feeling that back then because it wasn’t real. But I think the pressure of everything happening with hockey and that was that had built up so much that part of the COVID stuff coming in was almost like a relief for me. When it did stop, it was like I felt like I could breathe again because all this this pressure and everything that was happening, you know, I was nervous about my position in the team because I got this award but still couldn’t get around and all of this was happening.


So, it was like when yeah. When we got told the Olympics was being postponed, I was just like almost felt like, yeah, relief. That’s why I’ve worked my whole career because I know that I need that. And I think as a nurse, you just it’s incredible perspective because it’s, it’s real life.


t’s it’s, you know, it tells you that what you’re doing is actually not really that big. It’s, you know, this only bigger things happening. Well, I applied for both COVID clinics, one my hospital, one around the corner from here.


And funnily enough, they were all sorted. It was everyone just jumped in and wanted to help. And basically, all the nurses around WA were just trying to step up and do their bit. So, most of the challenges were people that have travelled.


So, if you live round the corner, it’s not a big deal to come in every day. But you know, we had some indigenous patients who the whole families moved down here from somewhere up in the Pilbara and they get an hour a day with their family.


That’s really hard. So, we often had patients instead of meeting their family in the room, if they were independent enough in a wheelchair, they’d leave the ward and go meet them in the carpark to get around our rules like you get it, you feel sort of that level of empathy for them, but you’re still breaking the rules and you’re putting everyone at risk. So, it’s been the same across COVID, is it? Sometimes we can be a little bit selfish and people just do what they think is most important for them rather than what’s important for others.


And I think for me, having that outlet of I’m still around other people because I was going to work i started riding to work. So that was how I could squeeze my exercise in. So, whenever I had a shift, I’d ride there, ride back


So, I was training on the same day, which I really enjoyed. The weather was good and yeah, I was just loving it actually being at the hospital, we want to be training, we want to be fulfilling the requirements to prepare as best we can for, you know, most important event going on.


But I’m still torn and I think everyone is that they want to make sure they’re safe and. Yeah. And now trying to get everyone back to Perth. Yeah. My two good mates from Victoria are trying to get over here.


The hockey competition just got cancelled over there, so they know that it’s really hard to train and realistically it’s probably better to be over here for training. But yeah, the government have said you’re not to come in, so I don’t get exemptions for them to come in because, you know, you think Hockey’s more important than what the Government is saying.


So, I certainly battle with that. But again, it’s I’ve had to learn, you know, in my whole career, I’ve had to do it like to choose your battles a little bit. And at the moment I’m just trying to do what I can do to help the community still do my training like I, I want to sort of satisfy that area as well. You know, I still want to improve and do all of that, but I’m not confident that the Olympics will go ahead. So, I’m also not willing to drop everything else in my life to prepare for something that potentially is not going to happen.


So, for me and a lot of the older girls, it’s okay. Well, this is a bit of a trial run for what retirement will be like. So, we’ve all gone through that phase of what else? What else can I do?


What other skills do I have? What, what’s what are work opportunities and what will it be like not having a training schedule dictated to you? So, we all went through that. You know, you train when you want to train initially.


That’s why I was riding to work. But then when I started working full time, it was really hard. Like then all of a sudden, you’re having to get up a couple of hours earlier to squeeze your session in before work, coming home exhausted and having to find the motivation to do the session.


Then same for the younger girls. You know, they’re thinking comm games, maybe a couple more Olympics, whereas anyone older like myself, you know this. I knew this would be my last Olympics. I’m 34. I’m probably towards the end of my career.


If Tokyo is cancelled, who knows? So, I’m not willing to sort of make too many changes in that space because I feel like, come the Olympics, I can definitely, you know, make those adjustments and focus more on the hockey.


But I know my body and my mind well enough, and this was an opportunity for me to focus on something else for a while, really heavily focused on something else for once. Being able to adapt I think is; is really key.


It’s having skills; to still push on and carry on with things even when it feels really, really uncomfortable. Certainly, in sport, we’ve quite good at that. I think you’re forced to do that; from a physical perspective regularly, but mentally, not so often, I guess.


Reflecting on a couple of close friends of mine who are in Melbourne who have kids went through the first part of COVID, did the home schooling. You know, we were in touch every week on a Friday. We’d have; have drinks together and just video chat each other.


And it was like this, you know, really great part of our week. And then to see them now go back to normal and then all of a sudden, bam, like they’re going to have to home-school their kids again.


You just really feel the pressure and the stress that that’s causing people. But then, you know, these girls are also ex athletes and you can just say that they’re they have their little vents, they have a bit of a cry and whatever.


Then they just get on with it. And to me, that’s resilience. I think it’s; it’s putting things in place. So instead of just falling into a heap and not being able to cope, it’s like, well, okay, how can I utilize the people around me?


How can I bring my friends together on a regular basis to make sure I have that, that outlet, you know, implementing different things in your week, It looks different for everyone, but I guess, yeah. And then for me, more specifically, I think resilience is putting your head down and still doing everything.


Like we know that it’s going to be really uncomfortable forever on this next phase and whatever it looks like we’ll soon see. But I think it’s just getting on with it. I’d love to win a gold medal at the Olympics, but as I’ve said the whole time, that’s sort of really not the focus at the moment.


And if it happens and we get the opportunity to go and try and do that, then happy days. But if not, it’s um. Yeah, I’m not sort of going to live the rest of my life wondering what if?


Thank you for listening. For more information about the Centre for Stories, head to our website, Centre for Stories dot com.



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