UK Nursing & COVID-19 series: Sgt. Scott Diehl, A Salute to Tenacity

Posted: March 16, 2021

In March 2021, we officially passed the one-year mark from when the pandemic hit the University of Kentucky and dramatically changed our way of life. We are taking this opportunity to look back at some of the standout stories and people in our UK College of Nursing community who stepped up and inspired us during tough times. 

The below article was part of a COVID-19 feature series that was originally published in the 2020-21 Winter Edition of the UK College of Nursing's Engagement Magazine.  

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Sergeant Scott Diehl, BSN (May 2020), has been a medic in the Army National Guard for more than 13 years, but he couldn’t foresee the battles he’d face since finishing a deployment. Even a global pandemic wasn’t able to keep Diehl from achieving his goal of a nursing degree.

“The three Fs have gotten me through it— faith, family and friends,” he says.

Diehl’s father is a paramedic; early memories of the ambulance lights while watching his father on the job inspired Diehl to join the U.S. Army at age 17 to become a medic. Diehl finished his deployment in 2009. Unable to find a job in his native California at the height of the Great Recession, he and his wife moved to Kentucky where Diehl enrolled at the University of Kentucky College of Nursing.

“I started in the spring of 2017, but I’d been battling alcoholism, and by late that summer, I overdosed on alcohol,” he says. “I spent three days in the intensive care unit at the VA Hospital.”

“I’d been struggling with mental health issues from a deployment; I had depression, anxiety, PTSD. But this was the wakeup call that I needed to get more help—not just hoping, praying and wishing that things would get better.”

RECOVERY, NOT RETREAT

After taking a semester off to recover, Diehl returned to classes at UK and to the Army National Guard. He carried a full-time class load while working nights and weekends and caring for his wife, who had become disabled.

Nearing the end of his final semester, and one day before Diehl expected to begin his synthesis work, he had to undergo emergency surgery for appendicitis.

As he was returning from restricted duty, Diehl learned the Army National Guard had activated him to work in Louisville, where a COVID-19 field hospital was being built.

Diehl spent several weeks juggling 12-hour shifts in the Army Reserve, and 12-hour clinical shifts at a hospital in Lexington, hoping to complete his clinical assignments on time.

In the end, Diehl was able to graduate with his nursing degree in early May, six weeks before beginning his new job at Saint Joseph East hospital. He takes all the difficulties in stride.

“We have this saying in the military, ‘Embrace the suck.’ That means all the hardship you’re going through at any time can’t compare to that feeling of awesomeness when you achieve your goal.”

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