Cleaning up beds and hospital rooms for three weeks during his junior year of high school isn't exactly the stuff of Hollywood coming-of-age movies, but Connor Sparrow looks back on his time helping out nurses during a service project as a key part of his life.
Sparrow was focused on realizing his dream of becoming a professional soccer player, but he wanted to be prepared in case it never came to fruition. And it was partly that service experience that inspired the Chicago Fire FC goalkeeper to pursue nursing as an alternative career. Today, he's a registered nurse in two states.
"I’d find myself sitting at a nursing station watching these women, for the most part, just watching the way they impacted lives," Sparrow told MLSsoccer.com. "They made the patients’ stay in a hospital — which is a place no one wants to be — better. The patients were set at ease by the presence of these women, these nurses. That’s one thing I really admired and looked up to. It was something special, you know what I mean?”
Sparrow's sister Zoey is a nurse in a St. Louis hospital, on the frontlines to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. He's just one of many MLSers with a close connection to health care workers.
“This is her call to duty," Turner said. "She was a little nervous when this all started, but I couldn’t be more impressed with her. She decided to go to grad school online and she’s still doing that while working crazy hours, just balancing all of those things. I admire what she’s been able to do.”
Matt Turner with his sister, Michelle | Courtesy Matt Turner
Fewer than two years apart in age, Michelle and Matt have an airtight bond that has outlasted their days growing up together. In the past, it was Michelle in the stands supporting Matt as he progressed from high school and college standout to MLS regular. Now Matt is trying to return the favor in any way possible.
"For so long, being the younger brother, I relied on her for so long for emotional support and advice," Turner said. "She’s always been a consistent force in my life, who I can talk to and tell it like it is. I’m just trying to be that same resource for her, when she needs someone to talk to or cry to.”
With more time of his own as MLS remains in a training moratorium, Turner has had a lot of time to appreciate and comprehend the sacrifices his sister and others are making.
Connor Sparrow's sister, Zoey, far left, at work | Courtesy Connor Sparrow
"For a lot of people this whole situation is a big inconvenience and puts a pause on a lot of things," Turner said. "For her it’s the complete opposite, it’s like double-time. She’s in her apartment less, working crazier hours and dealing with people who are seriously ill. She’s just blown me away with how she embraced what was coming and knew what she had to do.”
Sparrow is trying also to be the supportive sibling for Zoey, who spends her time away from the hospital concerned she might pass the virus on to her family as she sees colleagues across the country test positive.
“She told me the hospital has been absolutely wild," Sparrow said. “The biggest thing for her is that she has to wear a mask the entire time at work then even when she’s at home. ... But she’s good, she’s tired. She said it’s frustrating, towards the end of her shifts she just wants to rip the mask.”
“It’s really allowed me to put myself in her position," Sparrow added. "You’re able to get a better feeling of the sacrifices that every health care worker is making. It gives you a greater appreciation for the type of work they do. Anytime you go to a health care facility is never for a reason you enjoy, I hope (the pandemic) gives the general public a better appreciation of health care workers. It's a very selfless endeavor, even more so during a time like this.”