A Different Mother’s Day Amid COVID
From the SUN SENTINEL

MANATEE — A card, a gift and eating out at a local restaurant.

Those are some of the usual activities on Mother’s Day.

But in a COVID-19 world, those pastimes are somewhat curtailed.

For Manatee Memorial Hospital clinical leader Claire Gipson, a simple hug with her 8-year-old son isn’t possible this Mother’s Day.

That’s because Gipson took a 21-day travel nurse assignment to New York City hospitals to battle COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that’s caused a global pandemic.

“When I chose to come here and decided to come here, I was so scared,” Gipson said. “I have a fear of the unknown that I know it’s the epicenter of the COVID and all that, but my question is am I going to make it? Am I going to get infected? All the what ifs, but at the same time in my heart, I know I am doing the right thing. And I can help more.”

Gipson’s journey to the NYC front lines ended when her final night shift concluded Thursday morning. From there, Gipson wasn’t heading back to Florida. Instead, she was going to another hot spot area, Detroit.

That’s where Gipson’s son, Charlie Gipson IV — nicknamed C-4 because Gipson said “(he’s) the bomb,” — was staying with Gipson’s sister, Alvi.

A MOTHER’S DAY REUNION?

But reuniting with her son after three weeks won’t happen in the traditional sense. Gipson is staying at a nearby hotel, due to her exposure to COVID-19 victims, and will spend Mother’s Day apart from her son.

She said it will be tough and they’ll celebrate another day, as they’ll have to do with video calls while she maintains a seven-day quarantine before they travel back to Florida together. Once home, another seven days of quarantine is needed to make sure there’s no symptoms before Gipson can return to MMH.

Her husband, Charlie Gipson III, was traveling back and forth from Canada for work, but is unable to return back to the United States due to coronavirus restrictions.

“He’s been there for more than a month now, and he cannot come home because of the quarantine that is needed once he gets into Canada,” said Claire Gipson, who is also a part-time ER nurse in addition to her clinical leader and flight nurse roles. “And they have this thing that they have to sign, and if he gets pulled over by police somewhere, he has to comply with the stay at home. And he doesn’t want to get into trouble for that. So that’s very tough.”

A DIFFERENT MOTHER’S DAY

Claire Gipson’s Mother’s Day experience isn’t abnormal for healthcare workers.

Lauren Cross, who is the director of critical care services at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, has two boys, ages 11 and 14.

“It is a different scenario in the sense as you’re much more aware of what you go through at work, and when you enter your house what’s it going to be like,” Cross said. “Now when I come home, I take my shoes off in the garage and my kids stop and are like, ‘Can I hug you?’ I’m like, ‘No, I’ve got to take these clothes off and wash them, and I have to take a shower.’ So it’s very different.”

Cross said she’s very thankful to spend Mother’s Day with her family, because she had an exposure to COVID-19 in March, and was in a two-week quarantine away from her husband and two kids. She did not become ill.

“With this and the unknown of it and so many people getting sick, you definitely are much more appreciative of being healthy and having that time with your family,” Cross said. “Because so many people can’t. Because there are a lot of moms that are in the hospital, who won’t see their kids because there’s no visitation.”

MOTHER’S DAY PLANS

Kathy Peel, an emergency room charge nurse at Manatee Memorial, said she’d normally spend Mother’s Day having brunch or dinner somewhere with her family.

But with the ongoing coronavirus crisis, this year’s celebration takes place at home, with her 13-year-old son Aidan planning a surprise.

“This has kind of forced you to slow down, take a step back and take time and spend time together, which has been wonderful,” Peel said.

Not all healthcare workers who are moms are exposed to COVID-19 on a daily basis. Palmetto native Danika Emmons is a nurse in the cath lab holding unit at MMH. She has a 3-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter.

“I’m not working in the COVID units and I feel for them so much having to be exposed to that every day,” said Emmons, who has been a nurse for 10 years.

For nurses such as Gipson, there’s exposure every working shift . The experience she had in New York was harrowing she said.

“There’s no words and overwhelming numbers we had here in just one full shift,” Gipson said. “I had one night that I was getting a report, this patient’s report that this patient’s oxygen is low, unstable but alive. But not knowing when I was doing the rounds, it was not a lot of patients that I received. The patient was already code dead. … The first night, I was talking to my husband and was like, ‘Is this normal? I’m getting nightmares about patients dying?’ I was having nightmares for three nights.”