As we appreciate and give thanks to our mothers around the globe, I want to take this opportunity to highlight some of the extraordinary mothers working on the front lines of this pandemic.
Life has been turned upside down for the mothers working in hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. The days of coming home to hugs and kisses from their children are gone. In its place, is a strict regimen of changing clothes, sterilizing everything, and fearful hugs with the constant, nagging fear of infecting loved ones.
Fear for our families
Heather Hammerstedt, emergency physician and GEC co-founder working night shifts in an emergency department, said her worry is constant.
“When I get home, I change and everything goes directly into the laundry and I shower again. Only then do I risk spending time with my children, but always in fear of getting them sick. I worry about myself getting sick and dying; about my husband getting sick from me and dying; about the effect of my stress on my children; about their education during this time.”
Our colleagues in Uganda echoed this sentiment. Elizabeth is an ECP working in the emergency department in Masaka. She has not received hospital-provided scrubs said worries constantly about getting her children sick.
“After work I make sure I disinfect my shoes, wash hands very well, remove clothes for laundry after reaching home. I do this in order to avoid putting my kids at risk.”
Stigma from the community
Another ECP, Teddy, says she has sent her son to stay with his grandma. Between the stigmatizing from the community, and her fears for his health, she felt it was the best thing for him.
“As a result of the pandemic we’re facing long shifts, since most staff are not willing to take care of positive COVID-19 patients due to the fear and the stigma in communities. It was difficult before because I didn’t know how to go about it too, I was scared of going back to meet my family and sometimes I would get home exhausted, worried, and emotionally drained due to the long hours. I would come home late in the night just to avoid anybody home seeing me because my neighbors had started isolating me and my family. Until I decided to send my son to my mom’s place because I was certain that he will be safe and happy. Currently, I have to keep self-isolated so that my family stays safe. I miss my son — he used to welcome me home with hugs, and realized I can’t stop him from hugging me.”
Despite these challenges, Teddy maintains an incredibly positive and fighting attitude.
“I’m glad I have the courage to treat positive patients because at first everyone was scared but I stood brave to join the team. I’m glad our patients are doing better and we will be discharging our first patient soon.”
While Elizabeth also worries most about the health of her family, she worries about her families’ finances as well. Supplies are much more difficult to come by.
“Its’ not easy managing family and work during this pandemic, first of all it’s expensive, and we sometimes run out of sanitizer and other supplies.”
But she concluded her remarks, as any mother would:
“But still we have to fight the battle, and together we shall win.”