KORN FERRY TOUR INSIDER
Pendrith's girlfriend Beirnes on front lines of COVID-19 pandemic
March 26, 2020
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Taylor Pendrith regained Korn Ferry Tour status with a runner-up finish on the 2019 Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada Order of Merit. (Courtesy of Taylor Pendrith)
Taylor Pendrith’s golf career has taken an upward trajectory in the past 12 months.
The long-hitting Canadian won twice on the 2019 Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada to regain Korn Ferry Tour status, and he made five of six cuts to begin the 2020 Regular Season.
Pendrith is a hero to Canadian junior golfers who strive to progress toward the highest levels of the professional game.
In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, though, Pendrith’s girlfriend Meg Beirnes is the real hero.
Beirnes is a registered nurse in the hematology and stem cell transplant department at the Hamilton (Ontario) General Hospital – about an hour from both Toronto and Buffalo – specializing in the study of blood and blood diseases.
Normally, Beirnes works four 12-hour shifts in a row (two day shifts followed by two overnight shifts) before earning five days off. Over the past four years, that flexibility has allowed for frequent travel to see Pendrith compete.
These days, though, her schedule is in flux – she could get called in at any time – and she’s on the front lines of arguably the greatest health crisis of the modern era, playing a critical role in her nation’s fight against the novel coronavirus.
The goal for communities across Canada and the world: flatten the curve before hospitals get overwhelmed.
“It gives you the chills when you see people lining hallways and lying on towels with oxygen tanks standing up all over the place,” said Beirnes of the crippling impact seen in other countries.
“You know that under the right circumstances, you could save a lot of people if you were able to give them all the resources and time they needed, but in Italy or New York where resources are so scarce, they have to pick and choose who they can save, and that would be really, really hard.
“I hope it doesn’t get to that point,” she said, a small crack in her voice. “Because it would just be so overwhelming.”Taylor Pendrith and Meg Beirnes celebrate the wedding of good friends Corey and Malory Conners. (Courtesy of Taylor Pendrith)
Part of Beirnes’ role is to administer chemotherapy, and only so many people are specialized in doing that. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, she always wore a mask while working with patients – not for her sake, but for the patients’ sake, because they are so immunocompromised.
Now, she and her colleagues are “really low” on masks and personal protective equipment. There was even a moment when someone from the public came to her floor and stole boxes of masks.
She pleads with the public to refrain from hoarding the supplies that people need to do their jobs, and to protect those who are most at risk.
“It’s pretty scary, her being a nurse,” said Pendrith, who met Beirnes four years ago through fellow Kent State alum Corey Conners’ wife Malory.
“But all the nurses in the country and in the U.S. and all over the world are doing a great job, and they’re the ones who are battling this firsthand, and it’s a scary time for everybody.”
With the Korn Ferry Tour season put on hold, Pendrith maintains a firsthand perspective of the global situation as he prepares for an eventual competitive return.
“My life and everybody’s lives have changed during this circumstance and this pandemic, but I can’t do anything,” said Pendrith. “I’m indoors, working on my fitness. She has to go to work and do the things she always does. It’s pretty crazy.”You know that under the right circumstances, you could save a lot of people.
Despite the fact that Beirnes is happy to have Pendrith home for an undetermined amount of time – they have been in a long-distance relationship since the beginning, and Pendrith is thankful for some time to rest a nagging shoulder injury that has been bothering him since last September – she wishes it were under different circumstances.
The Canada/U.S. border was closed on Friday, March 20 to all non-essential travel (although Canadians could return home if they so chose), but the risk was too great for Pendrith to stay in Florida, where he lives with Corey and Malory Conners, because of the uncertainty.
Beirnes gave Pendrith the option to stay with his parents when he returned – they live about 35 minutes north of Toronto – because she works in a very public space and there was one confirmed case of a doctor at her hospital contracting COVID-19 from a patient. But he decided to stay with her.
“We get to spend lots of time together, which we’ve never had before,” she said.
In a moment of levity, Pendrith got a laugh talking about the hospital’s recent marketing effort.
On the side of the hospital, near one of the entrances, there is a poster of Beirnes working with a patient. It is gigantic, he said, taking up most of the side of a wall. Beirnes was OK with getting her photo taken because she thought it was for a little pamphlet.
“With no warning, it was just suddenly there. Now it’s nicely posted right where we enter,” said Beirnes. “Now I greet myself every morning.”The Hamilton (Ontario) General Hospital, where Meg Beirnes works. (Courtesy of Taylor Pendrith)
Those moments of levity and joy are put into perspective pretty quickly when Beirnes returns home from work.
She sees the photos online of nurse colleagues around the world with red marks on their face after a whole day of treating COVID-19 patients with masks secured tightly. She sees the helplessness. She is trying, though, as is everyone else in her field.
Despite the uncertainty of her schedule and day-to-day life, Beirnes maintains a steadfast determination to play her part in helping the world overcome this pandemic.
“At no point have I felt like, ‘Why did I do this?’ I still want to do it,” she said. “I realize there is risk involved in it, but that doesn’t really bother me, because I’m somebody who is able to do that – and if you’re able, you should be able to help people who need it.”
Pendrith knows it too. He has accepted the scariness of it all – as of March 25, the novel coronavirus has claimed more than 21,000 lives worldwide, with more than 900 in the U.S. and 25 in Canada – and despite the fact that his girlfriend’s area of the hospital is somewhat separated from the intensive care unit, it’s still a department with vulnerable people in a large, regional hospital. She’s right in the middle of it.
But he’s prouder than ever of Beirnes’ chosen profession. If there’s one person that knows how much of a hero she’s been, it’s Pendrith.
“Without nurses,” he said, “the world would be a lot different.”