real life

'My children are petrified of me.' The reality of being a paramedic right now.

Last night, I went to drop something to my children, who were at their dad’s house, before I headed off to my night shift as a paramedic. It was my fourth shift in so many days. I’ve done almost 55 hours this block.

My high school aged son looked down at me from the balcony that overlooks the long driveway.

“Mum, do you have COVID? Do I have to stay away?”

This my life now.

I have two children who are both in school and old enough to understand the crazy mixed-up world we’re living in now.

They understand what their mum does for a job and they understand the risk I am putting myself at.

Sadly, that means they are also becoming increasingly distant.

My own children are petrified of hugging me in fear of me having the virus.

Generally, I’m a fairly well-rounded individual, I’m very blunt and realistic about the ‘bad things’ in life. I’m exposed to the worst of the worst in society on a day-to-day basis.

The death side of life does not scare me.

People though, people scare me. And right now I am seeing the absolute worst of people.

While yes, the warnings can, at times, be frustrating and confusing, they are in essence quite simple: whenever possible, STAY AWAY FROM OTHER PEOPLE.

If you have to work, then continue to work within the boundaries of social distancing and a solid practise of hygiene, but otherwise stay away from anyone but immediate family and do not unnecessarily expose yourself to anyone else in the community, especially those who are vulnerable.

For myself, I am incredibly torn at what is best for myself and my family. My children’s father is also working in an industry in which he can be exposed to COVID-19. Obviously we both utilise all appropriate PPE when needed but at the back of my mind I’m always considering the “what if” I brought it home.

At the moment our close relatives who could assist with childcare during this time are grandparents, who fall into the vulnerable category, and my sister, who is 35 weeks pregnant, which also places her in the vulnerable category, and another sister who is immunosuppressed.

As such, ironically my children are actually safest in the care of their father and I, because they could potentially pass the virus onto vulnerable family members.

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What a heartbreaking reality it is, and I’ve only truly considered it as I’ve been asked to write this, that I am ultimately keeping my own kids away from loved ones because I am potentially exposing them to this virus. It is a cruel irony that my kids are fearful of being the ones to pass this on, as their parents work in professions that help the community.

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In a pre-COVID-19 world, I was incredibly protective and careful of what I would tell my children about what I see at work. But the coverage of this virus has meant my filtered down stories now have to become more detailed. They ask each day how many suspect cases I’ve gone to, did I save anyone, and are there lots of people in hospitals now.

I have to be honest with them. The current world has changed life for everyone. The medical world, the educational world, and even the retail world are changing daily.

As a medical professional my advice to anyone with children, teaching children, or caring for children at this challenging time is simple:

Teach calm.

Teach resilience.

Teach strength.

Explain the importance of hand hygiene and social distancing. And explain that while they cannot see their friends right now, we are taking these measures so they CAN see their friends in the future.

The threat is real. The threat is here. But how we handle the threat is what our children will remember.

Heed warnings. Follow recommendations.

Tell your children you love them and this is why we are going to such drastic measures.

And finally, please keep your family home and stop complaining about how hard this change is, because right now while you’re sitting at home wondering how you’ll keep your children away from this virus, my children are worried I’m going to bring it home to them.

I had a tear in my eye as I replied to my son last night, “No mate, I don’t have COVID yet but it’s probably best you don’t kiss or hug me for now”.

That is the heartbreaking reality I’m living in.

Read more on COVID-19:

The Australian Government Department of Health advises that the only people who will be tested for COVID-19 are those with symptoms who have either returned from overseas in the past 14 days or been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days. 

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

Feature image: Getty.

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