Kristian Eanes’ ‘crazy’ summer as a basketball player turned frontline caregiver

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 7/1/20

PITTSBORO — Kristian Eanes was in a unique situation this spring.

Her classes at Queens University of Charlotte went online. Her in-person duties as a residential adviser evaporated. And the …

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Kristian Eanes’ ‘crazy’ summer as a basketball player turned frontline caregiver

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Posted

PITTSBORO — Kristian Eanes was in a unique situation this spring.

Her classes at Queens University of Charlotte went online. Her in-person duties as a residential adviser evaporated. And the sport that first brought her to the school — basketball — was a no-go. Eanes, the Royals’ 5-foot-7 starting point guard and leading scorer at 16.8 points per game, was without a hoop and didn’t shoot for a month and a half.

But as a nursing major, her new obligations were only beginning.

Eanes, a 2017 Northwood graduate, landed a job in April with the North Carolina branch of Home Instead Senior Care, which provides services to senior facilities across the state.

With an official title of caregiver, Eanes has alternated work at two senior facilities near her home in Pittsboro during the coronavirus pandemic. Add in her Queens-related duties — online classes, final exams, make-do workouts and summer school — and it’s made for a busy few months.

“Crazy,” she said.

Eanes, 21, started out on a 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift and worked four days a week, sometimes on weekends. She remembers her first month as especially hectic — temperature checks, a constant flow of hand sanitizer and getting asked what felt like “a million questions every day” by screeners. Before stepping foot in her home after shifts, she’d change clothes entirely and toss her scrubs in the washer.

An adjustment, sure, but one she was happy to make. To Eanes, helping others has never been a chore.

Growing up in Pittsboro, she watched her mother, Karla, now the principal at Chatham Central, act as a “natural caregiver” to older relatives who lived nearby. Once she was a teenager, Eanes started tagging along more and more. Her older sister, Cierra McEachern, is also a registered nurse.

“I kind of grew a passion for it: helping others in their most vulnerable times,” Eanes said.

In her current role, it didn’t take long to realize how the coronavirus pandemic had affected residents. Alongside her standard duties of daily personal care, Eanes said she’s also relied on for “companionship.” Her interpersonal skills as an RA at Queens didn’t hurt there.

She’d check in on residents whose family members could no longer visit and offer a sympathetic ear to people who, just like her and everyone else, were scared. One resident liked to stay informed — “What did the news say today? Are we still in Phase One?” — so Eanes made sure she was always up to date on the latest state and national guidelines.

“Most of us could still go to the grocery stores — simple things,” she said. “It wasn’t in their best interest to do so. Things that we didn’t really have to worry about, they did. Being that companion and reassurer for them was important.”

As for her stance on masks, which Gov. Roy Cooper mandated across the state last week? Proudly non-negotiable. It’s a “respect thing,” she said, and a simple way to help curb the spread of COVID-19 while looking out for at-risk groups, such as the elderly/geriatric and immuno-compromised.

“My first shift, I had to wear a mask seven hours straight,” Eanes said. “Think about the nurses and the doctors in the hospital who are working 12-hour shifts. If you can’t wear a mask for 30 minutes to go into the grocery store or wherever you need to go, then you really need to take a look at your inner self.”

Eanes, a rising senior, has worked fewer hours in recent weeks — 11 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m., still four days a week — and recently finished her summer school classes. So she’s using her extra free time to get into more of a rhythm workout-wise. If this were a normal year, she’d be back at Queens for summer conditioning now, with ample gym and weight room space at her disposal.

Here in Pittsboro, neither she nor her longtime friend/neighbor Jazmine Atkins, another Northwood alum who played at the University of Mobile in Alabama, has a basketball hoop at their house. They’ve been relegated to nearby goals at a local park, which recently reopened. With no free weights, they’ve focused on body-weight exercises and done a lot of running.

“You just have to get it how you get it,” Eanes said.

Given that she’s a dedicated planner who swore by a color-coded calendar and sticky notes to stay on top of her many obligations at Queens, a Division II private school, Eanes said she’s handled her new normal pretty well.

She still uses a sticky note a night — turquoise-colored, lined like a sheet of notebook paper — to write out the tasks in front of her the next day and crosses off each one as she completes it.

“Even when I don’t have anything to do,” she said last Tuesday. “That’s how you know it’s an addiction. Today, I was like, ‘OK: team meeting at 10:45, volunteer at 12, nails done at 1.’”

For a basketball player now handing out a different kind of assist, it’s her way of maintaining routine in a situation that’s been anything but.

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at cfowler@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.

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