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She Found Comfort From Emergency Responders — Then Became One

Donor Story

She Found Comfort From Emergency Responders — Then Became One

After her father died of a heart attack, Hailey Lovell deferred one dream to pursue another. She’s now running the Boston Marathon® to support her colleagues in Mass General’s emergency department.

Kelsey Abbruzzese
March 26, 2024

Hailey Lovell was ready to pursue her dream of playing college soccer. During her junior year of high school, she committed to Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., excited to take her next steps as a student-athlete. But a year later, tragedy put that ambition on hold: in the fall of 2017, Hailey came home from practice to find her father unresponsive after suffering a fatal heart attack. Despite the outstanding response and care of emergency medical technicians and physicians who tried to revive him, Hailey’s dad passed away.

Watching the emergency workers during the heartbreak of that day and its aftermath inspired Hailey to pivot toward another dream — to become a nurse. She’s now working in the observation unit at Massachusetts General Hospital’s emergency department, where stable emergency patients go for X-rays, MRIs, echocardiograms, medications and other tests. This year, she will also use her athletic skills to raise funds for emergency response at Mass General, running the Boston Marathon® on April 15 in honor of the first responders who helped her family.

“The people who responded that day played a big role in my life,” says Hailey, who grew up in Wakefield, Mass. “Now, working in the ED, I get to see how my colleagues as nurses and providers can really impact patients and families.”

“You’re Going to be a Nurse, just like Your Mom.”

Hailey’s mother and three aunts are nurses and have covered all sorts of nursing specialties over their careers — home health, medical-surgical floors, outpatient surgeries, even prisons — so it was natural that as far back as elementary school, Hailey wanted to be a nurse. Unfortunately, not many Division I colleges and universities offer nursing programs for a student-athlete. When it was time to choose between pursuing a nursing degree or continuing her soccer career, Hailey thought: “I can always go back to school, but I’ll never get the chance to play soccer in college again.”

After her father died, though, Hailey didn’t feel the same about soccer; she had lost one of her biggest cheerleaders.

“It felt like the reason I played was gone,” Hailey says. “He never missed a game. He was so supportive on and off the field — my athletics, my schoolwork, always wanting the best for me and my brother. And he would always say, ‘You’re going to be a nurse, just like your mom.’”

Hailey took a postgraduate year at Phillips Academy — Andover in Andover, Mass., to reflect and think about what she wanted before starting college. Ultimately, she decided to take on both dreams at Regis College in Weston, Mass. At Regis, Hailey was able to major in nursing and play soccer all four years. Shortly after graduation in May 2023, she took and passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX). She started her job at Mass General in August of that year.

“In college, I didn’t know what type of nurse I wanted to be. It was so hard to choose between the different specialties,” Hailey says. “When I was applying to jobs, I got to shadow in the observation unit. I just knew I wanted to work here — it felt like things were coming full circle, that I could be like the first responders who were there for us.”

The Starting Line of a New Career

Marathon training has become a family affair, as Hailey’s brother — who is in the Navy — has completed some long runs with her and Hailey’s mom has assembled gift baskets to help her fundraising efforts. She knows her father would have been right by her side as well.

“He would be all-in on this, sending me messages for pre-run pump up and posting about it on social media,” Hailey says. “He was so proud of my brother and me.”

Even with her athletic background, Hailey doesn’t consider herself a runner and isn’t going into her first marathon with many expectations. “I just want to finish it,” she says. “I want to enjoy the whole experience and embrace every part of it.” For her, the real emphasis of the race is how much she can raise to support those in the emergency department — people who helped her and her family in one of their hardest moments, and who are now her colleagues.

“I want people to know how much I respect and admire anyone who goes into the nursing profession, especially in the ED,” Hailey says. “I know it isn’t an easy job, but I get to see firsthand how amazing my colleagues are with patients and families. I feel lucky to start my career as a nurse here.”

If you would like to support Hailey, please visit her fundraising page.

To learn more about Mass General’s marathon team, click here.