Katja Koroleva: The professional referee's battle against COVID-19 as a physician assistant

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As a professional referee, Katja Koroleva has game-altering decisions at her fingertips. As a physician assistant during the coronavirus pandemic, Koroleva deals with daily life and death calls.

“Neither field is really black or white,” she told the LA Times. “There are pathways we take based on gut instinct that are largely dependent on previous knowledge and understanding the situation.”

Last summer, Koroleva reached the heights of her profession — officiating five FIFA Women’s World Cup matches in France. That seems like years ago now for Koroleva, who has worked grueling 12-hour shifts for three months and counting inside the emergency room at Regional Medical Center in San Jose.

“It was a very hectic time,” said Koroleva, who was caring for as many as 10 patients a day. “We opened a separate COVID area to separate patients with concerning symptoms. And there was a constant changing of requirements and guidelines by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].”

Koroleva hasn’t been on a soccer field since the SheBelieves Cup in March. Like everyone else, she misses the sport. But perhaps better than most, Koroleva has gained important perspective.

“Sports is an important part of our life,” the 33-year-old said. “But life, ultimately, is the most important. There is no sport above life.”

Read more about Koroleva’s story here.