Katie Capano: The Superhero

GA 37 | Real Life Superhero

 

If you were writing her as a character, her accomplishments wouldn’t be believed. The idea of a Nurse Practitioner getting her doctorate (with degrees from Georgetown and Johns Hopkins no less), Licensed, Certified Midwife, Longtime Acro Yoga practitioner/teacher/teacher trainer, former Doctor Without Borders participant, bi-lingual traveling nurse serving remote indigenous communities in Central America and social justice advocate….it seems far-fetched and ridiculous because how could anyone do all that?! Well, meet Katie. She does all that and more-she builds field hospitals-it’s madness of the best kind. I can’t gush enough about her work, her intelligence, her bravery and her badassery. She’s Science Spice meets Empress of Woo. She’s taken all her passions and mixed them into a stunning life potion. I’ll have what she’s having. Awestruck is an understatement.

Listen to the podcast here:

Katie Capano: The Superhero

Katie Capano is coming on and I can’t wait. I already interviewed her sister, Christy Capano who’s an incredible interior designer. Now, I get to do Katie. They are four sisters. I wish she could do them all. Katie is a make-believe character. She is somebody that if you were to write about her in a movie, you would be like, “Somebody cannot be all those things.” She is a nurse practitioner who’s at Johns Hopkins getting her PhD in being a nurse practitioner. She’s a master midwife. She is a yogi. She speaks fluent Spanish. She was working in the Billie Jean King, emergency COVID Hospital set up in New York at the start of the pandemic when things were extremely serious in New York. She is the most mind-blowing mixture of science and empress of woo. She’s a world traveler and I can’t wait to share her story. Hope you enjoy it.

If I were to write a character of you in a movie or a TV show, it would be one of those things when people would be like, “That’s ridiculous. Nobody does all those things. Nobody can be all those things. That’s absurd,” but the best part is that it’s real life. You are a science goddess and empress of woo, both things together. I’m going to let you talk about it. You’re smarty pants. You went to Georgetown for undergrad and graduate. You’re a nurse practitioner, master midwife, yogi, social justice advocate, and fluent in Spanish. Did you do Doctors Without Borders? I’ve seen pictures of that.

Yes, I did in Nigeria.

Can you tell me everything? You went to Georgetown for what?

I went to Georgetown and got a bachelor of science in nursing. I did my undergrad in nursing and then graduated at the age of 21 or 22 from college as a registered nurse.

You’re a registered nurse getting out of college?

Yeah. That’s why I have been able to do a little bit more because I got that jumpstart right in undergrad, which I’m super grateful for. I then went straight to work for Catholic Medical Mission Board in Central America. I was raised Catholic, but I’m definitely not a practicing Catholic and it was not like an evangelical type of situation. They offered financial and personnel support to local nonprofits working in healthcare.

Central America is Catholic. That makes sense.

That’s where I learned Spanish. I took in Spanish as most of us have through high school and I did one year in college. When I went down there, I did a homestay for the first two months before doing my first placement. I did my first placement in Belize, which is English-speaking, but we had quite a few Spanish speakers as well because there’s a large mining community there. I was a home visiting nurse in Belize. I’d ride my bike for 3 miles through the jungle road to get a pickup truck at the clinic, and then drive this white pickup truck all over Southern Belize to do home visits, mostly for elderly Belizeans. I would go and check to make sure their diabetic wounds weren’t getting bad. I had to teach some kids with special needs. It’s not wound care.

Is this pre-iPhone? You can’t look up a word when you’re not sure of it.

Yes.

You were thrown into the fire speaking Spanish with elderly Belizean people.

Also, English. For a lot of Belizeans, English is the main language but there a lot of Spanish speakers, too. It was fantastic.

Where did you go after Belize?

After Belize, I went to Guatemala. I was in Guatemala for a while working in a community hospital that had been closed because Guatemala was getting out of a civil war. They signed the peace accords in ‘96. They were still only a few years out from the civil war. The area that I was working in was a town called Santiago, which is in Lake Atitlán. Everyone goes to Lake Atitlán that goes to Guatemala and most people who have been in Guatemala would know that. Santiago is an area that doesn’t get as much tourism because it’s much more indictable. The whole area is indigenous but Santiago doesn’t have a lot of tourists. There are no bars, but there might be now. It’s been more than twenty years since then.

Catching babies is like watching paint dry, but it can be exciting for the last 30 minutes. Share on X

How long were you away in Central America?

Three years. I was in Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Did you do a year in each one?

No. I took months off in between to travel as well. I don’t remember honestly. That was a long time.

Besides learning Spanish, loving travel, and loving the people, did you as a nurse learned much being in the field with people right away?

Yes. Mostly what you learn isn’t necessarily clinical nursing, although that was interesting. I got a lot of tropical medicine experience. It’s more like, how to work in diverse teams of people that maybe are speaking different languages? Because even though we were speaking Spanish, we have tons of people who are indigenous, speaking indigenous languages. Sometimes, when we would have an English-speaking team come in, we would have to translate that into Spanish and then translate from Spanish to Mopan Maya or Tzotzil Maya or whatever Mayan dialect it was. It was a lot of cross-cultural connections and it probably was the biggest thing I learned in that time, as well as American imperialism. I learned a lot about what the American government has done in and around Central America, which is horrific.

I don’t know anywhere near as much as you do, but I know that it’s bad. You then come home after three years there. You speak fluent Spanish and then you go back to Georgetown, right?

Yes. I went back to Georgetown. I love Georgetown. I love DC.

Me, too. My mom’s there. It’s such a wonderful town.

Next time you’re in town, let me know.

I’m going to. Now that COVID is better with vaccinations, I’ll be traveling. You then went back to graduate school in nursing?

I got a Master’s in science in nursing with a focus in family medicine. I’m a family nurse practitioner.

After graduate school, you are a family nurse practitioner?

Correct.

When does midwifery come in?

FMP is the short-term for Family Medicine Practitioner. I was working as an FMP for a couple of years, mostly in immigrant communities in Spanish. I was working all over the country as an FMP, hopping from one place to another. I did Doctors Without Borders during that time.

GA 37 | Real Life Superhero
Real Life Superhero: Contrary to popular belief, an out-of-hospital birth is less stressful than a hospital birth. It’s safer for low-risk women to give birth outside of the hospital.

 

Where did you go with Doctors Without Borders?

I went to Northern Nigeria in Sokoto State, in a teeny tiny town called Goronyo. Hausa is the ethnic group up there and predominately Northern Nigeria is Muslim. It’s a super-incredible cultural experience. We were in a predominately Muslim, fully Hausa, Northern Nigeria community right on the border of Niger. It was amazing, wonderful, heartbreaking, and terrible all at once.

I went to Africa for ten weeks, but not as a doctor or a nurse. It was amazing, heartbreaking, incredible, and unforgettable. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I didn’t go to Nigeria, but I wish I had. How long were you there?

I was there for six months. Doctors Without Borders’ whole thing is we go where no one else goes, which is true. We were 6 or 10 ex-pats working in a community and there were no other ex-pats. We’re heavily isolated in this rural community for six months. We were cholera-hit while we were there. I didn’t get Cholera. I did manage. Cholera came and none of us had experience with it. I was running the pediatric unit and my unit was in between epidemics. Measles had passed and malaria hadn’t started yet, so it was quiet. They handed me a book where it’s like, “Go build a cholera tent for isolation.”

Is this why you’re so good at Burning Man?

We built a lot of field hospitals.

How old were you when you did Doctors Without Borders?

Not quite 30 yet, the late twenties.

You’re there. You built a field hospital for Cholera with a manual.

That was insane. We ended up sapping. We did a good job. We only had a 3.5% fatality rate, which now people know fatality rates in epidemics is still quite high. The goal in those situations is to keep it under 5% and keep it localized, which we did. COVID had a 2% fatality rate and look at what it’s done.

Cholera is transferred through water. Is that wrong?

Transferred through water, the fecal through oral route.

Can you get it from speaking to somebody or touching someone?

You can’t.

Thank God. You’re there for six months, built a field hospital, vanquished Cholera, which is amazing. You then came back. When does midwifery come in right here?

I was burned out and I took time off. I traveled and taught yoga for six months, and then took another FMP job. At that point, I was like, “I can do everything except catch babies. I want to do that,” so I went back to midwifery school.

We are privileged to live in this country and have the mRNA vaccines, which are superior to every other vaccine ever created. Share on X

How long is that?

That’s two more years.

You have been catching babies since 2010, when you graduated from midwifery school.

I started midwifery school in 2012, so I was catching babies since midwifery school.

You graduated midwifery school in 2014 and you’ve been an official, licensed expert midwife since then?

Yeah, a certified nurse-midwife.

I’ve seen your posts where you would be at a nurse practitioner job, but then you would do weekends at these birthing clinics.

I worked in a birth center in Sonoma County, which was incredible and wonderful. I was working as a nurse practitioner in Reno. I couldn’t find a job where I could marry the two, which is family medicine with a focus on pediatrics, and work as a midwife. I’ve always had to have two different jobs, which has been getting not as exciting.

I want to go to yoga. We got to weave it in. There are too many things. There is a lot of stuff with you. You’re such an overachiever. It’s impressive. You’re at Johns Hopkins getting a PhD.

It’s Doctor of Nursing Practice, DNP. It’s a doctorate but it’s not a PhD.

A doctorate in what?

Nursing practice and I’m focusing on maternal challenges.

Do you get to catch babies while you do this?

Yes, because I also work as a midwife at Johns Hopkins.

Do you do family medicine nurse practitioner stuff as well?

No. That’s the one piece that I’m not doing for now. I miss the kids. I miss the families. I may take on a little bit more telemedicine style. Although I’m trying to change the narrative of overworking, so maybe I’ll let that ride for a little bit.

GA 37 | Real Life Superhero
Real Life Superhero: You can eat during labor. The whole NPO or “nothing by mouth” is an absurdity. Most of the things we do in the hospital are not based on good science or research.

 

Is catching babies an exhilarating, amazing experience?

Yes. It’s incredible. It can also be like watching paint dry sometimes. For the first-time moms, especially first-time moms with an epidural and no shame in that game, whatsoever but sometimes, it takes a while for things to move along. Sometimes, it’s like watching paint dry but it can be exciting for the last 30 minutes.

I had both my babies in the hospital but I’m in awe of women who do it with midwives. My mom did that with both my brother and me, with a midwife and no drugs, no epidural. She said it was the most empowering and thrilling experience. Afterwards, she felt that she was on a high like no other and she could eat whatever she wanted and walk around. My friends who have had babies at home or in a hospital with a midwife who hasn’t had any intervention feel good afterwards.

It’s incredible, especially when people come in for their 2nd or 3rd babies. They wanted to maybe do without an epidural, but the first time was too long and was too painful. Maybe the baby wasn’t in the right position but then the second time, it was fast and they’re able to do it.

Have you had births that are stressful?

It can be stressful. More so, it’s stressful when someone comes in ready to have a baby imminently. You’re rushing to get all the supplies and making sure you have everything ready to catch in time. Honestly, the most stressful thing is hospital birth. Out-of-hospital birth is less stressful than a hospital which people don’t realize. People try to act like out-of-hospital birth is the boogeyman and all these things can go wrong, but it’s actually safer for low-risk women to give birth outside of the hospital. There’s been quite a bit of research for decades. Once you have insulin-dependent diabetes or you have a history of seizure disorder or something’s going on, then yes, you definitely should be in the hospital.

I read an NPR article that said there was a doctor in Austria who was insistent that the doctors start washing their hands because, in his hospital, women were dying. One night, the midwife clinic birth center was open and the women in the hospital were dying at a 75% maternal death rate, so when women would go into labor, they didn’t want to go to the hospital. They would try to hold it and wait until the next night where the midwives were open.

He tried to make the doctors wash their hands because they were doing autopsies. They called him crazy and put him in an insane asylum. He died of sepsis, which is the same thing these women and babies were dying of at the time. It’s been for hundreds of years that birth with midwives is safer and less stressful. It’s amazing. All my friends who have done it say childbirth is the best drug they’ve ever done in their life. They would say that it’s good. They can walk around afterwards and they can eat anything they want. Everything is great.

You can eat during labor. The whole NPO or nothing by mouth is an absurdity. It’s not research-based at all, just like fetal electronic monitoring is not. Most of the things we do in the hospital are not based on good science or good research, which doesn’t make sense.

There’s yoga and I want to talk about Burning Man. I also want to talk about COVID because you worked right before you started Johns Hopkins, which was April or May of 2020. Right in the most intense time of COVID when it hit New York hard, you went to the field hospital that they made there at the Billie Jean King Center and you were an emergency COVID nurse. I saw you spoke on CNN and you didn’t have any patients or they’re few.

Originally, the unit was built out to hold up to 400 patients at any given time. We never had more than 80, yet people are dying. Our EMTs and paramedics were getting sent out to help in the morgues and in the hospitals, but they couldn’t get the licensure figured out for the nurse practitioners, PA’s, and physicians to go work in the hospital. It was this multi-system failure where there was a humanitarian crisis of the most epic portion I’ve ever seen. We couldn’t help because the contracts were not well negotiated. The unions didn’t want us to come in because they couldn’t figure out the insurance and how we would get paid. It was capitalism. Capitalism is why many people died.

A bureaucratic fuck show was everything that people could have been saved. Three times the amount of people at a time that you were able and set up to help, they couldn’t figure it out.

People were dying because of the hospital strain. There weren’t enough personnel because there wasn’t enough oxygen because when you’re that busy, medical errors happen. Thousands of people are dying at once and we could have saved many more lives. It was atrocious. We finally were able to start receiving patients because we did have patients the whole time. We’re making more headway after I’d been there for about a week and getting more patients. They have been sitting in an ER for nine days and people are dying in the ER, and we were there with everything you needed.

People skilled, incredible people teams, and experts. I hate this story.

Also, the ambulance contracts and because of the insurance, you had to match it with the correct ambulance. Our healthcare system is broken.

Could somebody who had COVID who knew about the center arrived there and get help?

Vaccine hesitancy is a real thing. There's a good reason why many people do not trust the government and the vaccines. Share on X

No. There were some contractual issues where it had to come from New York Health + Hospitals. It was a nightmare.

I’m sure it’s traumatizing for you and all of the people that you worked with to go through that. I would see your stories during that time. I loved your stories. Your stories on Instagram are consistent, always smart, informative, and on the right side of everything, so I love you. I know you said on CNN, which I respected was that you were all getting paid a great amount of money, which you should have been. You deserve every penny but then you weren’t even working because of this nightmare.

So should have everybody working in a New York City Hospital at that time and that hazard pay. That was happening all over the country. They would fly us in, give us this exorbitant hazard pay, yet the people actually doing the heavy lifting in the hard-hit hospitals were not getting hazard pay, so the unions, rightfully so were saying, “No, you can’t bring these. Pay our people first and then you can bring in these hazard workers,” which I totally get. I’ve been a nurse for over twenty years. I’m not anti-union. The nursing union does a good job for most places in the country. I don’t fault the unions for that at all but it was yet again another roadblock.

It’s great to know somebody with your experience and expertise talk about it because they made such a big deal about the center being built and this field hospital and how it was equipped with advanced this and that. Everything was there ready to help people but people couldn’t go. That is a travesty of justice. Moving along, you then went to Johns Hopkins, but when did yoga come into your mix? You’re a serious yogini. I have got a yogini.

I love yoga. It is the way that keeps me sane in this world. I’ve been doing yoga since I was a teenager. I started on VHS tapes. I didn’t know what I was doing. I got a VHS and some other woman who to this day, I don’t know who she was. I had two VHS tapes that I was doing throughout high school by myself because I didn’t know anybody else doing yoga.

If we knew each other in high school, I was doing it in high school, too. I went to a college in New York and there was a yoga place by me called Sivananda Vedanta. People were like, “Where are you going on a Friday night?” I’m like, “To the Sivananda Vedanta center.” I wish we had known each other then.

I’ve been doing it forever. I went to my first teacher training in 2007, so I’ve been teaching since then.

I know this from hearsay. I haven’t witnessed it but I’ve seen it in pictures. I know that you Acro Yoga. You’re a master Acro yogi and then can fly people around the room. Cirque du Soleil on the side.

I did not have that type of strength and flexibility, but that would be amazing.

I’ve seen pictures on your Instagram. It looks like you do have both the strength and flexibility and then you’ll be in scrubs in the next picture. It’s amazing. I know you’ve done lots of immersions. In the midst of all your nursing and your baby catching, you would do weekend immersion.

Solar immersions, lunar immersions, elemental immersions, and Acro Yoga world. I used to teach those.

You did teacher training as well.

I thought it was fun. That’s not what totally drove us. I was trying to keep my foot in the game and do 1 or 2 a year. I had one lined up in New York City with my dear friend, Mary Aranas. We were going to teach a lunar immersion in New York City and then COVID hit. We had to cancel. I remember as COVID was hitting and all the things we’re trying get canceled, and people are like, “Let’s wait another week. Let’s wait another two weeks.” Being the healthcare professional that has worked in epidemics before, it was like, “It’s going to be two years before we are scheduling. This is going to be beyond cancel. We’ll have another conversation when this comes back.”

You knew. It is hilarious when I look back and I was like, “Two weeks, flatten the curve.” When my kids’ school is canceled, I’m like, “I’ve got this, a couple of weeks.” When you read anything about any virus or plague throughout history, it’s years.

We are privileged to live in this country and have not just any vaccine but the mRNA vaccines, which are superior to every other vaccine ever created.

Let’s talk about that because they’re new.

GA 37 | Real Life Superhero
Real Life Superhero: When COVID hit, many people died because of capitalism. Many nurse practitioners, PAs, and physicians couldn’t help because the contracts were not well negotiated.

 

They’re new in the form that they are, but mRNA vaccines and mRNA technology has been researched for about 30 years. I feel like that’s the piece that people keep forgetting, like, “It’s new. We don’t know.” It’s like, “No. People all over the world have been researching.”

“We know this is good stuff.”

One time, they were working on mRNA, a vaccine against HIV forever but we didn’t get as much global funding for vaccines and push until COVID. That’s why it got developed and completed. The technology finally got completed now but it had been under research.

I feel lucky, fortunate, and blessed to have the mRNA vaccine, to have gotten my vaccine. It’s amazing. From somebody who comes from both sides of the coin, science and the more esoteric side, I love to know your views because some people speak only from one side. There are some crazy theories going around out there like, “It will change your DNA.” That’s bananas.

Vaccine hesitancy is a real thing. For most people, it’s a valid concern. There has been a lot that the medical-industrial complex has done against mRNA groups in this country. There’s a good reason why a lot of people in this country do not trust the government and do not trust vaccines. That’s an important thing to be sensitive to. It ends up being a small minority of people who are anti-vax because of conspiracy theories and autism, which is not true and anti-science wacko stuff like that. Honestly, there’s no meeting in the middle.

Also, there’s no changing their minds. What you’re saying is right. The vaccine hesitancy, especially from minorities and people of color because of the history that has gone down in this country with sterilizing black women.

Also, what they used to do to all women with uteruses and what they’ve done in the LGBTQ community. There are a lot of us that have a real reason to be hesitant.

I see you work hard with colleagues to try and get information out to people who may be hesitant for those reasons, not the science deniers, to encourage them that this is safe. To see people of color like our vice president and many others get the vaccine and talk about it helps.

The Black Doctors Consortium has done a lot in the social media and public messaging realm. As much as I would love to be at the forefront of this, but I’m a white woman. As much information as I can give and amplify the voices that are the frontline, which are black healthcare workers and BIPOC healthcare workers, that’s more my role. There’s a huge number of people of color in the country who are in the healthcare field who are getting vaccines and are speaking up about it. They’re easy to find. There’s a lot of them all over social media.

I feel lucky and privileged. I have a question because you had got COVID in August 2020.

I had it in June 2020, and then I’ve had post-COVID syndrome ever since.

What does that include?

Now, it is mostly vertigo. The brain fog is mostly gone, but I still get vertigo quite often. I still don’t have my taste and smell fully back. For the first 6 to 9 months, I had migraines, vertigo, brain fog, and neurological almost every day.

That’s awful. I know a couple who have had COVID and are not getting the vaccine because they’re like, “I’ve had it, so I should have the antibodies or T-cells.” You have had COVID and you’ve now been vaccinated. What’s the difference between having had COVID and having your body hopefully remember, but getting the vaccine as well?

The most straightforward answer to that is when you get COVID, we don’t know what the dosage was. We don’t know how high your viral load was. We don’t know how strong your immune system response was. We still don’t know even know how to test for that in a lot of those cases. We’re going based on similar viruses like SARS or MERS and going on what we know about virology in general. The theory is 3 to 6 months maybe that you’ve got this immunity if you’ve had COVID but we’re not sure. It depends on how severe your COVID was. Whereas with a vaccine, we know the dosages. We’re still learning how long it lasts because we’re still in a vaccine trial. The people who joined the vaccine trials a year before all of us got our vaccines are the pioneers. As of now, they’re also vaccinated.

I want to go back to how lucky we are because of the patents, all these countries in Europe and America, we are not sharing them with third-world countries. For those people all over the world, COVID is going to be real for them for years.

None of us are safe until we're all safe. That goes for the entire world. Share on X

It’s going to continue to decimate communities because these variants are even scarier than real COVID. The COVID that I got and the COVID most of us ended up with.

It’s because we won’t share.

I saw a statistic that there are ten African nations that haven’t had any vaccines at all. The entire continent of Africa has only had about 10% of its population vaccinated. In the meantime, the two worst countries were The United States and Canada. We each bought enough vaccines to vaccinate our populations 4 to 10 times over. Canada was the worst. The quantity, we bought more but per capita, they bought even more than that. We’re only starting to share. The Biden administration said that they will donate 80 million doses which is great, but frankly, it’s too little too late. I stopped following that. I know he made the suggestion to let the patent go so that they could build it out and those other countries could produce it. I don’t know where we are at or whether that’s happened or not.

I don’t know either. Since we’re going to buy it, countries who can afford it can buy it, why wouldn’t we share with countries who have no means to buy it? The whole thing is horrible.

Aside from the ethics of it, the science behind it, the reason variants happen is because it’s not well controlled and people are passing it on. It’s mutating as it gets passed on. The mRNA vaccines are the only vaccines that are still doing an excellent job. Frankly, it’s only a matter of time before one of these variants is immune to an mRNA vaccine. In that case, we’re back into another lockdown. People think we’re out of the woods because we live in America and yes, thank God we live in America in this situation, but we are far from out of the woods. We are years for being out of the woods.

That’s an amazing point that it behooves us to get everyone vaccinated so that we don’t come back to this place of 2020 in a few years with new variants that will find a way to evade the vaccines we have.

None of us are safe until we’re all safe and that goes for the entire world.

Let’s talk about Burning Man. Let’s pivot a little lighter. There’s Acro Yoga, baby catching, nurse practitioner, pediatrics, and cholera stopping. You’ve been a burner since before Burning Man was the cool thing to do. I feel like you did it before all the cool kids I know did it.

I only started several years ago.

I know a lot of people who go to Burning Man and to be fair if I ever went, I would probably be like these people, too. I don’t know how to do anything. The radical self-reliance part, that’s why I’m like, “I don’t think I can go to Burning Man. I’m not that self-reliant.” People go to camps that are already made for them. It’s a wonderful, fun, community-based, wild time but when you go, you go early. You build camps and hospitals the real way.

I don’t know if there’s any real way. It’s important to recognize that we’re all allowed to have the experience that we want as long as we’re respecting the land and respecting the culture. You’re in a space where you don’t have the ability to take the time off and build a camp. You have to pay for a plug-and-play camp, but you’re not leaving a trace and you’re contributing maybe with finances to other art projects or doing where you want to be involved like volunteering at your camp’s party. That’s how you do it. I don’t think there is a right way to do it.

It’s cool though that you do go and you build your camp.

We have disbanded the camp because we all met partners and started doing our own thing. We started originally with all my best girlfriends from college and we were a female-run, female-led camp. It was an incredible experience of learning how to do shit like building yurts, figuring out water filtration systems, and figuring out black water and gray water dispensers. Finding all the things you need like recycle camp.

You and your girlfriends figured all that out together.

We built everything. We learned how to build it all.

How long does it take?

GA 37 | Real Life Superhero
Real Life Superhero: Variants are even scarier than the original COVID. They happen because COVID is not well controlled, people are passing it on, and it mutates as it gets passed on.

 

To build things?

Before it starts, how far in advance do you get there?

I get there early because I work as a medic for the people out there building. I go there usually about a week ahead of time, but most people go a couple of days ahead of time. We’re a small camp. We were only around twenty people in our camp. It wasn’t huge or massive.

Do you take down camps, too? Do you stay later?

Yeah, with our own camp. I usually like to go out for 2 to 3 weeks when I can. I take care of the people during build week, so it’s like the big massive camps like the plug-and-play camps and the sound camps. Maybe Robot Heart, Mayan Warrior, and all those big, well-known camps have been built one week before the actual burn. All the builders are allowed in one week earlier. Being a medic, you get to go in even earlier than that, which is cool. The Department of Public Works, the DPW, are the employees of Burning Man that will come in and will build the infrastructure.

As a medic, ahead of time, you’re there to help with that but also to take care of that person if they get injured or have a mental health crisis or whatever it happens to be. They take too many drugs one day or whatever. It’s cool to be able to go in that early even before the cool kids get there. It’s fun. There’s the Early Man that we do. The Saturday night before build week starts is much fun with all the different departments. We make our own effigies and burn them. The medics will do it. The firefighters will do it. Heat will do it, which are the big machineries. All the different camps will do it. The bike camp will do it.

Building your field hospital in Nigeria was an amazing learning ground for you. That’s cool. They canceled it in 2020 because of COVID, right?

I was on the COVID-19 task force for Burning Man. We started to get together in November of 2020 and we met from November through April. We gave BurningMan.org the recommendation and our recommendation was, we cannot host Burning Man unless we make vaccinations mandatory. We cannot support that. They took that information and they also took the fact that things like lumber are up 400%. Key people who make the vessel happen that don’t live in this country didn’t know if they’re going to come in because of COVID.

We don’t have the technology yet for vaccination credentials, even if they did move forward with our recommendation. How are we going to verify who’s been vaccinated? Plus, all the personnel that we’re concerned about their health and wellbeing and all the mental health issues we’re dealing with. The decision became even broader than like, “Do we mandate vaccines or not?” At the end of April 2021, they decided to cancel again which was sad, but it was a solid and good decision. Hopefully, in 2022, we won’t have to mandate vaccines. That’s a hope. Zero shame in my game about mandating vaccines for Burning Man, any large-scale event, universities, and anything at all.

Thank you for that because it’s vital for events like that and those different institutions. We need vaccinations. Do you still do yoga personally for yourself?

I do.

Did it help your body because you work long hours in the hospital and catch babies?

That’s the beauty of working as a hospital midwife. I don’t work anything longer than an eight-hour shift. I don’t work that 24-hour or 48-hour anymore.

Congratulations. That was a long time you did that.

That was a long time. Yoga is great. Zoom Yoga has been wonderful for my practice because I get to study with my teachers that are spread out all over the country in the comfort of my own home. It doesn’t work well for me if I sign up for the class, but don’t take it to live because then I never end up doing it. I’ve learned that I have to be in a live class.

Me, too. If I sign up for it to take whenever I want, I don’t do it. It’s the immediacy of it happening. I enjoy the attention with good teachers, whether it’s yoga, Pilates, or something of someone giving me a correction. It keeps me on my game. Otherwise, I’m like, “Whatever.”

The beauty of working as a hospital midwife is you don't have to work longer than an eight-hour shift. Share on X

I’ve been studying with my teachers forever so they know my body. They’re like, “Katie, you’re doing that thing again.”

When you were starting at Johns Hopkins, once you were no longer contagious with COVID and able to go back to work, you were working insane hours because they made all the people in the hospitals help with COVID units I saw. Is that right?

I never got deployed into a COVID unit. Baltimore, amazingly, we did it well. Yes and no. I work for the Latinx community, which I got hired at Hopkins because I’m bilingual. We have a huge, amazing, lovely, and wonderful immigrant community there. It’s a new receiving community for people from Central America and Mexico. Our rates in the Latinx community were upwards of 20% in the birthing community and even higher in the general community. Our patients were sick, but we did not have to be deployed. I did not have to do extra shifts, thank goodness, because I was also in the doctoral program so my schedule is full.

You were going to school and working full-time.

I’m appointing, so I work 32 hours a week as opposed to 40.

I feel like all the things you do are unbelievable. What you’ve been able to marry and weave into the tapestry of all these things is the coolest thing ever. You travel everywhere. Still, you love traveling.

I’ve been loving the US traveling. I love international traveling but the US is such a beautiful country. I was camping on the border of West Virginia and Virginia. There are many little nooks and crannies all over this country. Yes, traveling, but it doesn’t have to be far away.

I love your whole family. I’m obsessed with you, your three sisters, and your mom. You have a mother who’s a nurse practitioner, right?

Yes. She’s the first nurse practitioner in the state of Delaware.

You have your sister Alex. Does she have her PhD?

She has her DNP. Her Doctorate of nursing practice and her focus is Cannabis Science.

The two of you will have your Doctorates.

She has her Doctorate. She’s the only person in the country with a Doctorate that focuses on Cannabis Science but someone else may have graduated now because she graduated a few years ago.

Was she the first?

Yeah. She is the preeminent cannabis scientist in the country.

You are the coolest. There’s then Jenny in fashion. I’m obsessed with your family. The whole thing is unbelievable to me. I can’t wait to hang out with you again.

GA 37 | Real Life Superhero
Real Life Superhero: It’s only a matter of time before one of these variants becomes immune to the mRNA vaccine. We are far from being out of the woods.

 

I miss you.

I miss you. Thank you. I love your face, your posts, and your work. I have much respect for you and everything you do. I may be your biggest fan.

I don’t think that’s true.

Thank you. I want to see your face soon in person to kiss and squeeze it.

I will hopefully come out with Christy in September to LA but if not, when you come to DC, please let me know.

I’m calling you. I love you.

I love you, too.

Bye.

Important Links:

About Katie Capano

GA 37 | Real Life Superhero

A nurse-midwife and family nurse practitioner, Katie has been teaching yoga since 2005 and practicing medicine since 2004. Whether catching babies in Sonoma county, directing a cholera response team with Doctors without Borders, providing wound care for needle exchange participants, or teaching yoga at Wanderlust, Katie will meet you exactly where you are.

Katie’s teaching focuses on interpersonal communication and personal transformation. She uses an integrated lens of Eastern & Western medicine to simplify complex concepts for any level of understanding. Katie thanks Kundalini yoga for teaching her discipline, Thai Massage for teaching her patience, Prajna yoga for teaching her humility and Western Medicine for teaching her anatomy. Katie is also a daily meditator in the Zen Buddhist tradition and an associate professor for the schools of Medicine and Nursing at the University of Nevada, Reno. She mentors students regularly.

Katie bows deeply to her teachers: Tias & Surya Little, Jack Kornfield, Elizabeth Greathouse, Kay Ryan, and the thousands of patients, students and colleagues she’s worked with along the way.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share! https://greatnessadjacentpodcast.com/