She gave up being a roller derby skater. Now this NC nurse is helping coronavirus patients.

·5 min read

For the past few years, Lacie Maninga has been known as the “Duchess of Pain.”

Strange name for a nurse, yes?

But that’s what they called Maninga in the Fayetteville Roller Derby, where Maninga was a blocker and jammer for the Ritzy Rollers. It was her way to get away from the hospital, have some fun and compete and she was good at it. She also met her husband, John, through roller derby, so there was that.

But with a family of five kids, Maninga decided her playing days in flat track roller derby should end and became an official last fall. That, too, has changed with so much on hold.

Maninga is nursing manager of the Emergency Department and ICU at Central Harnett Hospital in Lillington. Much of her days is filled with dealing with the coronavirus, with trying to keep the virus contained and its damage minimal to the patients stricken with it.

“We’re dealing with a pandemic and it has been scary at times,” Maninga said in an interview with The News & Observer. “In the beginning we did not know what we were dealing with or what to expect. The numbers have gone down and we’re in an OK position right now at the hospital, but ...”

North Carolina’s stay-at-home restrictions will be in place at least until May 8 but there will eventually be a gradual loosening of those restrictions as the state looks to jumpstart the economy. There also will be more testing. How will that affect the number of positive cases, of potential patients?

“Can we handle it? What if we suddenly had a surge of 50 positive tests? It could get scary again,” Maninga said.

The News & Observer wants to feature stories about NC people on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19. Tell us about your healthcare heroes here.

Face mask hides her smile from patients

Maninga has had COVID-19 patients. For a nurse, for any healthcare professional, it can be an emotional time.

“I’m a touchy-feely person who likes to sit on the patient’s bed, cuddle up with them and give them a hug,” she said. “What’s very difficult for people like me who are sentimental about those things is that I have on a face mask. They can’t see our expressions. They can’t see the little smiles we try to give them.

“It’s been difficult.”

Lacie Maninga
Lacie Maninga

Maninga said the last sentence after taking a deep breath, her tone of voice tinged with the emotion of knowing, of seeing, of coping. Thursday was her 35th birthday and likely one the Kentucky native won’t forget given all that has happened in the last few months.

“Lacie is always thinking about other people,” said Marleigh Zacek, chief nursing officer at Harnett Health System. “She was a staff nurse and has become a leader in the Emergency Department. She’s like so many, working hard week to week without a day off, putting in 60 hours a week, putting her patients above herself.”

Her husband John Maninga is a U.S. Army sergeant whose 19 years of service have included tours in Iraq. He later was a combat-diver instructor while stationed in Key West, Fla., where Lacie was a practical nurse for Armor Correctional Health Services dealing with local inmates,. She also found time to start a roller derby league.

“She has always put other people first, at work, home and derby,” John Maninga said.

Lacie Maninga said she was weaned in a medical family. Her father was a nurse, as was her stepfather. A grandfather was a pharmacist.

“I don’t think I had any choice,” she said, laughing. “I grew up in a hospital and always knew that’s where I belonged.”

Maninga, born in Mayfield, Ky., attended West Kentucky Community and Technical College, then Bladen Community College, becoming a registered nurse. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from American Sentinel University, and a master’s degree from Capella University.

Explaining the coronavirus to her kids

There is still much to learn about COVID-19, a novel coronavirus. There’s much she wants to tell her children, whose ages range from 11 to 16, to try and help them understand why their lives have so dramatically changed.

John Maninga handles a lot of the at-home schooling, she said. Lacie said he dropped his Army retirement packet this past fall and plans to be a high school history teacher, saying, “This should be good preparation for him.”

Lacie Maninga said she recently made the decision to avoid social media, frustrated that the coronavirus, in her opinion, has fostered too many political agendas. She believes the best course is to follow all the prescribed precautions: stay home as much as possible, social distancing, added testing.

“People’s lives are at stake,” she said. “This isn’t the time to be political. This is the time to think which of your friends are you willing to let pass away because you didn’t want to stay home. That’s a reason the hospitals aren’t being overrun.”

From roller derby to nurse

As a jammer in roller derby, Maninga’s job was to pass opposing blockers, escape the pack, lap the pack and then score points for her team once she starts passing those blockers. It takes skill and grit.

“The nature of the sport makes you a stronger person. It toughens you up,” said Stephanie Waicus, a retired skater who handles the Fayetteville Roller Derby public relations. “It teaches you to keep pushing through exhaustion. You absolutely must push through your exhaustion because people depend on you. Your team depends on you.

“You fight hard and smart or people get hurt. These are also areas where Duchess excels as a nurse.”

Added Joe Rone, the league’s staff photographer: “Her efforts in fighting this hideous disease does not surprise any of us that have the good fortune of knowing her.”

Maninga, like many in her profession, understands the coronavirus is expected to be like the flu in that it’s seasonable. Like the flu, cases could surge again in the fall.

“Maybe by the fall we will have a vaccine,” she said. “Let’s get a vaccine or perfect an effective treatment. We can do this. Six months is a long time in the medical field.”

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