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Registered nurse helped Graham County weather the worst of the 2020 storm

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Registered Nurse Melissa Lunt was happy to make the transition from doing COVID-19 contact tracing to giving out COVID-19.

The last year has been longer for Melissa Lunt than for most people and many are crediting the registered nurse with helping the Graham County Health Department get through it.

Lunt, a Gila Valley native, has been a RN for 31 years. After spending 17 years in the neonatal intensive care unit, she moved to the Graham County Health Department five years ago. Before COVID-19 she helped families vaccinate their children and educated people on family planning. Nowadays she's the director of nurses.

The mother of six children loves plants, raising chickens, and being a wife and mother. Lunt's co-workers and friends praise Lunt's kindness as she works tirelessly to help the community.

After the pandemic broke out, Lunt was thrown into the deep end, working in contact tracing. Now, almost a year after the pandemic, she is working in vaccine distribution.

Carolyn McCormies, Eastern Arizona College director of nursing, has known Lunt for 32 years. She graduated from the same nursing program and sometimes McCormies volunteers with the health department.

“I have so much respect for her,” McCormies said. “She’s a leader, and she’s really portrayed that in her current role. She has worked tirelessly, and she’s a role model for new and seasoned nurses. Sometimes I think she finds time in the day that isn’t even there.”

Lunt has gone out of her way to help people, going above and beyond in her service to the community in the battle against COVID-19.

“She’s an example for me on how to be a better person and care for others,” McCormies said.

At the beginning of the pandemic, McCormies said Lunt helped the communities beyond her duties as a health department nurse.

“When the pandemic hit, and we had some cases within the community, the health department set up a testing site in the community. She brought the education papers, supplies, lunch. She did this for our community. She’s the one,” she said. “As things change more, she has learned more.”

Education and communication have been one of the key elements in fighting the pandemic, Lunt said.

“Public perception is very important. Media is very important, and communication is very important,” she said.

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However, when it comes to misinformation about the pandemic or community spread, McCormies said Lunt is courteous.

“When people have misinformation, she is patient and kind,” she said. “She is really extraordinary.”

Brian Douglas, health department director, considers Lunt a true hero.

“This past year has taken a toll on our health care family and no one more than Melissa. Fourteen plus days are now the norm. No time off, no weekends, or holidays. Melissa’s drive and compassion to serve others motivates her over her own personal health and wellness.”

Many nights after working a full day and before going home, Lunt will stop by a friend's or stranger's home to deliver groceries, drop off a cake, or just to visit.

At the beginning of the pandemic, she organized a campaign to make and distribute face masks through the community, he said.

“Over 8,000 masks were sewn by local volunteers. Many hours, days, and weekends were donated by Melissa in addition to heading our health department’s COVID-19 response,” he said. “It has been my honor to know and work with Melissa Lunt.”

Like Douglas, Matt Bolinger, Graham and Greenlee counties' epidemiologist, applauds Lunt’s work ethic.

"Melissa works tirelessly all day, every day. She constantly is doing things for others,” he said. “She is definitely worth her weight in gold.”

Although the road has been long, the pandemic goes on in varying stages. Lunt is eyeing the light at the end of the tunnel and says she can’t wait for the sickness to lift.

“Once this is all over with the pandemic, I will take a day off,” she said. “I have hope for a better year in 2022.”

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