'Helping people is my passion': Quebec boxer Kim Clavel fights COVID-19 as a nurse

Clavel was in top form and ready to get into the ring for the first time since earning her North American Boxing Federation championship belt when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Clavel is working as an auxiliary nurse at long-term care residences across the province

Kim Clavel says many of the eldery patients she sees are in isolation and some have symptoms which could prove to be COVID-19. (Submitted by Kim Clavel)

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Kim Clavel was in top form and ready to get into the ring for the first time since earning her North American Boxing Federation championship belt.

Her fight, scheduled for March 21 at the Bell Centre against former champion Esmeralda Moreno, was cancelled and she lost thousands of dollars as a result.

But instead of gong down for the count, the 29-year-old did what has always came naturally to her — she decided to fight back.  

"Helping people is my passion. Yes, I'm a boxer, but I'm a nurse too," Clavel said. "

I'm young and healthy and I feel like I have to do it." 

Last August, Clavel left her job as a nurse in the maternity ward at the Lanaudière hospital to focus exclusively on her professional boxing career.

But with boxing on hold, she's put her scrubs back on and is working as an auxiliary nurse for an agency that provides staff for long-term care residences — CHSLDs —  around the province. 

For the last three weeks she's been working nights and evenings almost non-stop to help out with staffing shortages. 

"Some of the workers are afraid to come to work because of COVID-19," she said.

"Workers who have a mother or grandmother at home are scared because they don't want to bring the virus home. Others are being very courageous. They protect themselves and head straight to the front line." 

In recent weeks, Clavel has answered calls to help in Terrebonne, Mascouche, Laval, Montreal and Repentigny.

She said many of the elderly patients she sees are in isolation. Some of them have symptoms which could prove to be COVID-19 and many are scared, she said.

"People there are alone, they cry and they can't understand what's happening outside," she said. "Psychologically, it's a real challenge."

Keeping residents safe

The other challenge is keeping the residents and herself safe from infection. 

Strict cleaning protocols are being enforced and there is more paperwork than usual to do every time she has contact with a resident.

She admits it has slowed down her ability to operate but acknowledges that it's the right thing to do.  

"Their lives depend on how people like me prepare to go into their room," Clavel said. 

Kim Clavel, 29, says she is young, healthy and feels like helping people is something she has to do. (Vincent Ethier/Eye of the Tiger Management)

For her own safety, Clavel said after work she changes out of her scrubs and puts them immediately into a sealed plastic bag before she gets in her car. When she arrives home the first thing she does is wash her clothes.

"The precautions I'm taking are working. Everyday I could be in contact with the virus. But I protect myself and I don't feel anything. I'm full of energy, I still train every day."

Keeping in shape when off the clock

Clavel does about an hour-long workout after her shifts. 

She said it involves a lot of jogging and some shadow boxing. And while she is maintaining some of her elite physical form but, she said she wouldn't be able to get in the ring and go 10 rounds at the moment. 

"I'm not in fight shape, but I'm trying to stay in good enough shape that I can get back to that quickly."

It's not clear when Clavel will next step into the boxing ring again, but she said she's too focused on doing her part to battle the outbreak to think about it. 

There is a simple way people can pitch in to help nurses like her, she said: "Everyone has to wash their hands and stay home. It works."

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.