Dr Samantha May has joined several teams in 2020: first, the Melbourne Vixens; next, the dedicated group of health workers operating the in-vehicle Covid-19 testing site in the car park of Highpoint Shopping Centre.
The netball post was one that had been coveted by the Sport and Exercise Medicine Registrar - a long-time fan who was a high school goal defence who spent two successful seasons working with the AFLW’s Western Bulldogs before moving to Canberra in 2019.
The second appointment came after the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the four-week Australian women’s cricket tour to South Africa, as May suddenly found herself working much closer to her northern suburbs home.
Having answered the call from the Department of Health and Human Services to register her interest if required, the 30-year-old decided to put on hold establishing her new day job at the Alphington Sports Medicine Clinic.
“When I heard about the Highpoint car park testing I was like ‘ok, this is cool, I think drive-through testing is a great idea - the DHHS is doing something creative and efficient and safe’,’’ says May.
“So I signed up because I feel quite honoured to be part of the medical profession - especially at this point in time with everything that doctors are doing, and I felt like I was just waiting for my opportunity to help.
“I wouldn’t say this is frontline work but I would say it’s definitely helping the community, so I was really excited to be part of it.''
On day one, May, two nurses and a pathology co-ordinator stood in the empty level two carpark in Maribyrnong, as equipment was delivered by Harry the Hirer.
“It was just us, and we had to set up the design of the carpark, figure out where the cars would come in, figure out where everyone would get tested, figure out how they’d be kept safe and what to do and we just sort of did it. That was towards the end of April and I’ve been with the team ever since.’’
A much bigger team these days - one that typically conducts between 400 and 690 daily tests. May is on duty six days a week, counselling, comforting and informing patients who are often stressed and anxious, as well as providing clinical support to the nursing staff.
She has also been part of Team Vixens since March, and managed to squeeze in 30-minute health screens for each player before the Covid restrictions came into effect. That was the initial face-to-face contact between the netballers and their new medico; the next was when May administered scarce flu vaccines in an innovative drive-through set-up of her own.
“I just had to be creative,’’ she says. “I was really lucky to get my hands on some vaccines, which were hot property during the first wave in April,’’ she says. “They each got their 15-minute appointment block, and I had my adrenaline ready and my defibrillator ready in case anyone had a reaction.’’
Her role since has been to provide tele-health services that have been more about managing illnesses than injuries. The club’s affiliation with the VIS has provided access to the return-to-training policies and procedures prepared by the Institute’s staff, as well as Vixens physiotherapist Steve Hawkins, Netball Victoria’s Bek Webster and Super Netball’s chief medical officer Dr Sue White.
“They’ve made it really clear and easy for me, so that I can make sure that our athletes understand what their role is, that they’re educated about reducing the risk of spreading any type of illness at training, and following their daily monitoring to a ’T’ and all that sort of stuff,'' says May, who was a volunteer doctor at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
“So if someone has a runny nose, do they go to training? It’s my role to counsel them and make sure that they’re safe to go back.’’
Given that May’s first professional taste of Super Netball came via the Giants-Firebirds game at the AIS last season, she is keenly anticipating her second, when the Vixens return to their home court in early August.
“It’s really exciting and fast-paced, and knew that I wanted to get involved with netball in a more formal capacity at some point,’’ says May, whose particular passion is the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries.
“I can’t wait to see everyone in action. Because I lived in Canberra last year I haven’t been to a Vixens game for a while and I’m really looking forward to actually seeing them on court.’’
Written by Linda Pearce