PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. --
Maj. Tori Scearbo is one of thousands of state medical professionals working the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. She has been taking care of patients since the virus spread to New Hampshire in March.
A native of Bangor, Maine, she serves in the New Hampshire Air National Guard as a nurse for the 157th Medical Group, Det. 1 CERFP and as a critical care nurse at Portsmouth Hospital.
“I’ve always felt our role was very critical, even without this pandemic,” Scearbo said. “We’re taking care of people probably on the worst day of their life, and we’re expected to save their life.”
Scearbo said nurses serving COVID patients help facilitate the final conversation families have with dying loved ones in the intensive care unit.
She was recently featured in a WMUR News 9 story for her support of Royal Wallace III, a New Hampshire resident who fought the virus for 17 days before he died. Social distancing precluded his family from visiting him.
Wallace’s daughter, Michele Parliman, says Scearbo was their family’s "angel."
“When someone is dying and you can’t be there, she filled that hole for us,” Parliman said. “She just showed so much compassion and love for someone she didn’t know, and that just shows me the integrity of her character and what a great job she does in her profession.”
Scearbo went above the call of duty to ensure Wallace wasn't alone.
“She allowed us to use FaceTime during the day, so that we could see him,” Parliman said. “She’d hold his hand, and she’d have the iPad in his ear. I would be speaking to Dad, telling him I was there, and I was holding his hand. When I would do that, she would squeeze his hand so he could feel it.”
Scearbo's bedside manner during the ordeal came as no surprise to her guard commander.
“It doesn’t surprise me to hear she would reach out to the patient’s family,” said Col. John Mirabello, 157th Medical Group commander. “She’s never afraid to expose vulnerabilities and be personal, relate to people on a one-to-one level whether it's the people she’s supervising, whether it’s her supervisor or co-workers, or for the people she cares for in her civilian facility.”
Serving others during COVID-19 means sacrifice for Scearbo’s own family. She has been sleeping at the hospital because her own daughter has respiratory issues.
“I kissed my kids on March 13 and haven’t been able to kiss or hug them since,” Scearbo said. “I just couldn’t risk bringing [COVID] home and infecting her.”
Scearbo began her military career in 1996, enlisting in the U.S. Army. She joined the Maine Air National Guard in 2003 as a logistics customer service representative. She transitioned to the medical field after graduating from college in 2004 and working at an open heart surgery ICU at Eastern Maine Medical Center. She's been with the New Hampshire Air National Guard since 2011.
Scearbo said her passion for taking care of others developed as a result of a tough childhood.
“You either continue down that path where you continue and be an abusive person yourself, or you go the complete end of the spectrum and you become this nurturing, caring person,” Scearbo said. “I’m very thankful I chose the path of nurturing.”