“What a wonderful second family. A gift.”

Masters Swimmer Peg Sullivan

Peg is a nurse practitioner at the VA in White River Junction. I interviewed her for this piece in late April when she returned from a 14-day deployment on New York’s frontline. —Liz

How do you feel now that we can’t swim together as a team?

I miss seeing my morning crowd, my lane mates, B standing there telling me what to do and me not doing it. And of course, I REALLY miss the cold water.

Peg chills in the Ottauquechee with her morning masters buddies. Photo credit: Barbara Hummel

What is different about your life now? Please tell us about your time in New York.


Peg in NYC at the end of 12 days of 12-hour shifts, with her fellow nurses

I am running a lot more, which is rather fun. I tend to be a homebody, so that hasn’t changed.  I am a nurse practitioner at the VA, in cardiology. The VA has transitioned to telephone or video office visits to avoid patients’ exposure to COVID 19, which I find less than satisfying.  I just returned from a 14-day deployment to NYC, where I worked as a staff nurse in a 15 bed ICU (a role I haven’t filled in 30 years of clinical practice). It was truly like walking through the gates of Hell. Every bed with critically ill patients on ventilators, challenging nurse-to-patient ratios, constant noise and low-level panic as patient after patient coded (i.e., had a critical life-threatening event). We would get them back, and they would die, anyway, despite the best medical and nursing care. It was exhausting, indescribable, at times inhumane but necessary care, and sadly the outcomes were all the same except for one or two who lived.  Throughout it all, I tried to focus on one human aspect of each patient, like the woman who had her nails painted a sparkly purple.  And when her husband called me every evening to check on her, I made sure I mentioned this to him so he knew I saw her as a human being, and not a “COVID patient.” Sadly, she did not survive.

Are you finding ways to stay fit now that we can’t swim in the pool? If so, what are they?

Run run run!!!!  (sometimes a challenge when Susan comes across the field with delicious cake s to feed my sweet tooth) [Peg is referring to Susan Reid, her neighbor and teammate, who is a wonderful chef. – Liz ]

One of Peg’s sunflower gardens taken just as she returned home from a run.
Peg in her element. Photo credit: Barbara Hummel

When did you join Masters swimming, and why? Do you cross-train?

Peg on her birthday, rocking out to Diana Ross. Photo credit: Barbara Hummel
Water temp gets Peg’s approval. Photo credit: Barbara Hummel
Sometimes Peg has a little trouble getting in. Photo credit: Barbara Hummel

I joined the day UVAC opened and never looked back. I never swam on a team as a kid, so this has been a new adventure.  When I finally retire from full time clinical, I hope to do some weights in addition to my running. We’ll see….

What is your swimming background?

I took swimming lessons as a kid, learning to swim in the cold Atlantic Ocean every summer (which is probably why I hate cold water so much now!)  Other than that, nothing organized.

Your favorite stroke?

I love fly, but especially when I can wear my fins! When I first learned the stroke (as an adult), I kept moving backwards so I find this particularly rewarding that I can now propel in the right direction.

How do you feel about being part of the UVRays? 

What a wonderful second family.  A gift.

Peg competes in biathlon event during masters Winter Olympics. Photo credit: Barbara Hummel
Peg has the best collection of swim caps. Photo credit: Barbara Hummel

How long have you been in the Upper Valley? What brought you here?

We moved up here in 2007 to escape the madness and crowds of Massachusetts. Should have done it a lot sooner.

Who’s in your family?

My husband Kent Kurchak, and our handsome, impish red border collie, Dougal. I have lots of family scattered around the country.

Kent and Dougal on top of Mt. Tom

How are you coping through the public health crisis?

My life is usually quite sedate and solitary, with long hikes out our back door through the fields and woods with Dougal, or hours in my gardens during the warmer weather. I have to be so social and interactive in my job that my time off is for decompression.  My running has gone up several notches, and I am logging close to 50-mile weeks.  An occasional single Malt Scotch helps too 😉

Anything else you’d like to add about yourself or any thoughts you’d like to share?   

Aren’t we all so fortunate to live here, sharing part of our lives with each other?

Interview by Masters Swimmer, Liz Kelsey.

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