Amber Brown, a nurse practitioner who lives in Kernersville, says she endured the heckling that she received Tuesday at the ReOpen North Carolina protest because she wants to protect coronavirus patients and the public from more exposure to the disease.

“I wanted to go because the thought of reopening this early actually scares me,” Brown said Thursday. “We are not adequately testing. We haven’t had enough days with a reduction of cases. And we don’t have adequate supplies.”

During the protest, Brown was heckled by 10 protesters who screamed at her as Brown stood outside the state legislative building in Raleigh. A widely circulated photo and video shows a man wearing a mask and carrying a U.S. flag standing behind Brown and yelling at her.

Brown, 40, said that a female protester actually verbally attacked Brown for her weight. Others called her a strain on the health-care system, saying that obesity kills more people than the COVID-19 virus, the News and Observer of Raleigh reported.

“I tried to block out so much of that because I figured that I could endure it longer if I ignored them,” Brown said. “As far as the things they called me, they were not the scariest or the most upsetting things that I have ever heard.

“The most upsetting thing I heard Tuesday was that ‘Old people are going to die anyway, and that we should reopen because they are going to die anyway,’” Brown said. “It goes against everything that I do.”

About 1,000 people gathered Tuesday outside the state-government complex in downtown Raleigh to demand that Gov. Roy Cooper reopen the economy despite the coronavirus pandemic. Cooper extended the stay-at-home order Thursday through May 8 and announced a plan to lift restrictions based on the trends of the virus.

Brown, who formerly worked last month as an oncology nurse practitioner at Wake Forest Baptist Health, said she stood up for her patients at the protest. As a counter protester, she wore a T-shirt that said, “Rally Together and Die Alone.”

Brown said she advocated for patients who are scared if the state reopens too soon. These patients include people who’ve had bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy and have weakened immune systems, she said.

“These are the people that they (the protesters) want to sacrifice,” Brown said. “They couldn’t go and stand. I have a functioning immune system and I have a thick skin.

“Even though I’m not seeing them (patients) every day and interacting with them, they are still my patients,” Brown said. “I still touched their lives. They still carry me with them.”

Brown said she harbors no ill feelings against the protesters who heckled her.

Medical providers see the big picture of COVID-19 and realize that the statewide stay-at-home order is saving lives, Brown said.

Brown said she heard a lot of misinformation about the pandemic from the ReOpen protesters. For example, some protesters believe medical providers are hoarding ventilators and then said there are not enough ventilators, Brown said.

Other protesters accused Brown of being a fake nurse, a plant placed by counterprotesters and an actress, Brown said.

Prior to her nursing career, Brown worked as a chemist for Highland Industries Inc. in Kernersville and Vitacost.com Inc. in Lexington. In 2007, she received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Millersville University in Millersville, Pa.

A graduate of East Forsyth High School, Brown received an associate degree in nursing at Guilford Technical Community College in 2012, she said.

Brown received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Western Carolina University in 2015. She also received a master’s degree in nursing as a family nurse practitioner and an oncology specialist from Duke University in May 2019.

Brown worked as a floor nurse at Wake Forest Baptist Health from March 2015 to September 2019, she said. Brown worked as nurse practitioner at Wake Forest Baptist Health from September 2019 to March 2020.

Brown can be employed as floor nurse, if needed, by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Because of the mitigation measures, the curve of COVID-19 cases has flattened in Forsyth County, and Wake Forest Baptist doesn’t need as many nurses on duty to care for all of its patients, including ones with the virus, Brown said.

She and other health-care professionals want to keep vulnerable people safe from the virus, Brown said.

“I’m not saying that we should never reopen,” Brown said. “But we are not ready to reopen yet.”

jhinton@wsjournal.com

336-727-7299

@jhintonWSJ

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