NASCAR honors Hayko after fighting virus
CINCINNATI — Lisbon High School graduate Lindsey Hayko went from being an emergency room nurse to recovering from COVID-19 to being one of the health care heroes honored in NASCAR’s return from the coronavirus pandemic.
“I came down with it in mid-March, right before everything was shut down,” said the 26-year-old Hayko. “I started feeling fatiqued and out of breath. They recommended I get tested.”
The test came back positive and she was quarantined for 14 days.
“I was pretty fortunate. I was able to manage my symptoms at home,” she said. “I lost my sense of smell and taste. I was short of breath, tired and got really bad headaches.”
After recovering, she returned to The Christ Hospital in downtown Cincinnati, where she works three 12-hour shifts a week as an emergency room registered nurse.
“We’ve been fortunate in Cincinnati,” she said. “I don’t think our numbers are as high as other places. Our hospital was well prepared for it.”
Two weeks later, she went to Dayton to donate her convalescent plasma in an effort to help those suffering from COVID-19.
“I was one of the first people in the state to donate my plasma after getting the virus,” Hayko said. “It’s given to those in ICU who aren’t improving very much.”
She has donated her blood two more times since then.
“The idea behind it is my plasma will have antibodies to help fight the virus,” she said. “There have been studies that show it does help. It’s worth exploring.”
Cincinnati’s FOX19 did a story on her and it caught the eye of JTG Daugherty Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series. Former Cleveland Cavaliers center Brad Daugherty is one of the owners.
When NASCAR returned following a 10-week layoff during the pandemic, each of the 40 cars featured the name of a health care worker for “The Real Heroes 400” on May 17 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.
“When I heard Lindsey’s story, I was really inspired to have her on our Cottonelle Chevy at Darlington Raceway,” JTG Daugherty driver Ryan Preece said on Twitter. “Not only is she working on the frontlines in The Christ Hospital Emergency Department in Cincinnati, but she’s also selflessly donating plasma to continue to help others beat the virus. Thank you, Lindsey for all you’ve done.”
Hayko said she’s never been to a race, but enjoyed them on TV as a youngster in Lisbon.
“I grew up watching races every Sunday,” she said. “We never missed one. My dad’s a huge race car fan.”
She is the daughter of Joe Hayko of Indiana and Elaine Iler of Rogers.
“I got to FaceTime with Ryan Preece the Saturday before the race,” she said. “My dad was on there. I think he was a little more excited. I was excited because he was excited.”
Hayko missed all the pageantry of being at the race, but was at home and shown on TV as one of the heroes telling drivers to start their engines.
“I had a lot of people said they were surprised,” she said.
• Hayko moved to Cincinnati after high school to attend Xavier University.
“My mom is a licensed practical nurse and she took care of a little boy from East Liverpool,” she said. “We traveled to Cincinnati with him (for treatments). I liked the positive impact she had on him.”
• Hayko said everyone should continue following the health guidelines during the ongoing pandemic.
“Our numbers are down, but the patients we are seeing are much sicker,” she said. “I definitely think we should be following the recommendations. It’s been a little unpredictable and we are still learning about it.”
• As a senior at Lisbon, she was the Blue Devils’ second-leading scorer on the basketball team and guided them to a 13-9 record in the 2011-12 season.
• When she isn’t working, Hayko has been going to school to be a mental health practitioner.
“I would like to further my career and work in the mental health field,” she said.