CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – When the world was sent into isolation in early 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Arlene McTeer rushed to the front lines. She lived and worked in the epicenter, New York City.
For 24 hours a day, seven days a week, she took care of patients until the virus ravaged her own body. And now, the doctor who took care of thousands of patients, is a patient, desperately needing a kidney transplant.
Looking at pictures of their lives, Sonja McTeer said that for as long as she can remember, her sister, Dr. Arlene McTeer, was on a mission.
“Arlene, since she was about five, wanted to be a medical doctor – of course when a child says I want to be a medical doctor, everybody says that – but it never wavered.
The sisters did not have to search for role models; their father, Dr. George McTeer, made history in healthcare.
“My dad was the first African American to graduate from MUSC’s dental school,” recalled Sonja McTeer. “My sister and I watched his behavior and how he conducted himself, humbly and mildly.”
From her years at Bishop England High School and through rigorous academic college programs, Sonja said her sister made sacrifices for the sake of others.
“She went to Cornell, and she went to Rochester. And then she went to Chicago Medical School,” her sister noted.
And eventually, she would end up in New York City. “She wanted to help the less advantaged and underserved, and I hate going back but she got that from my dad- and she just wanted to make a difference.”
And then came 2020. The front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic: New York City. Taking care of patients until she became one.
“She was at work doing her normal thing and she collapsed at the job, and they rushed her upstairs to the intensive care unit. She had difficulty breathing, all the tell-tail signs of COVID. They tested her and realized that is what it was,” said Sonja.
Dr. Arlene McTeer neither failed her patients, nor her staff, but her body began to fail her.
“She had Guillain-Barré syndrome which affects the nerves, legs, and arms; induced multi-organ inflammatory responses causing reactive airways disease, which means her lungs have been damaged severely. She has nephrotic syndrome which means that her kidneys have failed. She gained so much fluid because of the kidneys not functioning.”
Nearly every organ system in her body began shutting down.
“The taste of food, smells is gone. It’s almost like she is the shell of a person. She is not the Arlene we knew.”
Two years after she rushed to rescue others, Sonja said her sister needs a kidney transplant.
“I am asking anybody who sees this interview to think about Arlene. If she doesn’t get this kidney she’s going to die,” said Sonja.
If you are interested in finding out more about Dr. Arlene McTeer’s personal battle with COVID-19 or to determine if you might be a match, please click here.