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COVID-19 is personal to all of us. Even the healthy young ones.

Yesterday, I had a routine prenatal appointment. Well, “routine” aside from it being the dreaded appointment where my door prize was a bottle of glucola. As I left, a staff member at the office said “Stay healthy! You want to avoid delivering that baby and needing anyone in medicine as long as you can.” And I agree with her 100%.

I have a healthy young family. No autoimmune diseases. No elderly family members close by.

I personally find the protection of the vulnerable populations to be compelling enough reason to take precautions— but in this particular situation, in light of COVID-19‘s effects around the world—there also IS a risk to my family. And minimizing our exposure to any illness is key to mitigating that risk. So it’s a community problem and a personal problem.

Our local healthcare infrastructure could be crushed by this if there is widespread infection as well as hospital rates at the expected percentage. Many videos and posts are circulating about the number of ventilators projected to be needed versus our current supply.

Given those projections, I want my family to catch NOTHING right now. I’m not worried about COVID-19 for my family— not even as a pregnant woman (although information is evolving so my opinion may change). Mostly I’m worried that if we catch something *else*, treatment won’t be available because of full hospitals/doctors and nurses quarantined/etc. Moderate illnesses could escalate to severe before interventions are accessible.

I have nurse friends in states much more affected than the Midwest. I’m not panicked or going crazy (we get our TP on automatic delivery from amazon so I was set there 👍🏻) but I do see a real issue with availability of resources (hospital beds, healthy staff, etc.) if it spreads here.

As I told a friend, “A baby (most likely) won’t die of COVID-19. It isn’t affecting them severely. But if a baby catches a GI bug, gets super dehydrated, and needs IV fluids— it’ll be a big issue if hospitals/clinics are max capacity, and doctors and nurses are quarantined. That child may not get basic treatment (that we take for granted) until it’s time for the ICU.” THAT scares me.

These are the things I’m considering. And typically, I fall on the “meh, go on with life” side of this. But in addition to needing to protect vulnerable populations, we can all find ourselves needing medical care for one reason or another. An exhausted nurse or doc who has colleagues quarantined— has been overworked, very sick patients, no beds— their care will not be at its prime because humans have limits.

If I catch a bug and it causes premature delivery, I want a NICU team on their A-game. That won’t happen if half their staff is quarantined, and they’re over worked. I want to not need the healthcare system right now— both for my sake and leaving space for others who need it. So I will do what I can to avoid getting sick at all right now.

I’ve slept overnight at the hospital in a snowstorm in Arkansas when I worked as a pediatric nurse. I slept 4 hours and came back on the floor because others couldn’t make it in. It was probably my most dangerous day as a nurse. It was small scale, short term. But my critical thinking skills and response times were noticeably shorter in that situation. And that’s a reality we could face— with a much longer duration. Not because the staff is incompetent — but because they’d be asked to stay in situations not fair to them and one that pushes them beyond reasonable physical/mental limits.

It’s happening on the west coast already— large portions of fire departments are quarantined, hospitals are full. Some of these viruses incubate for 10-14 days so hospitals/clinics could be in a much different state two weeks from now, for those of us with minimal current impact in our area. It’s not irrational to think we should be prudent to avoid any exposure to illness right now. Because in a few weeks, you could feel the healthcare burden personally if you are sick with anything.

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