Valley nurse battling cancer still hopes to continue volunteering amid coronavirus

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PHOENIX — A Valley nurse didn’t think twice when he jumped on a plane and spent three months on the frontlines in New York. Risking it all for others, but now his friends and family say he needs that same type of support from his community.

“Everyone looked up to Ian, there wasn’t a single person that did not like him,” said Nathan Kathol.

Ian Youngblood is the picture of health. The former firefighter and emergency room nurse, known for the size of his heart and stature, no doubt stood out when Nathan Kathol first met him at ground zero of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We actually got paired together for quite some time off and on for the 47 days and truly got to know each other a lot better,” said Kathol.

A bond formed in the fire of COVID-19.

Away from family and friends, they leaned on each other.

“You talk about everything you hear and see and do there because you know, it’s going to affect your mental health otherwise,” said Kathol.

He says cases of water would always show up at the hotel doors of all the volunteers, always wondering where it came from.

“One day I overheard them always calling him water boy, and I found out that he was paying out of his own pocket for all of us,” said Kathol.

No small gesture when it’s for 5,000 nurses.

Nathan says Ian never wanted attention for it, however, Nathan says Ian needs that attention now.

“To hear him get that diagnosis, it just makes you question everything in life,” said Kathol.

Ian experienced headaches, nausea and then a seizure towards the end of his deployment.

A CT scan would reveal a stunning and devastating diagnosis, stage 4 Glioblastoma, a deadly form of brain cancer. The same kind that took the life of late Senator John McCain.

“Ya they literally just cut straight across,” said Ian Youngblood over a zoom interview pointing to a gash running across his head.

Ian returned home to Phoenix Friday after having an emergency craniotomy Sunday.

He’ll now continue his treatments with chemotherapy and radiation.

But without insurance, medical bills are likely to be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Chemo is gonna be expensive and we’re gonna try to really attack that tumor with the chemo,” said Youngblood, remaining upbeat and extremely positive despite the cancer growing in his head.

A cancer that kills 50% of people who get it within two years.

Friends and family set up a GoFundMe account to help with the cost. Despite his diagnosis, he wants to get back to work already.

“I mean COVID is still ramping up all over the place,” said Youngblood. “It’s a calling you know, If I am feeling well enough I may volunteer to go to Texas where cases are skyrocketing.”

He’ll do it to make a difference where he’s needed and with whatever time he has.

“You know just having the love of everyone around me is really what helps keep me positive,” said Youngblood.