AN Intensive Care Unit nurse at Cork University Hospital felt she had no option but to leave her children in the 24/7 care of their grandparents so that she can stay on the frontline of the Covid-19 crisis.
ICU nurse Tracy Hanley has pleaded with people to stay home with their kids, as she says goodbye to her own children.
Ms Hanley celebrated her daughter’s ninth birthday last weekend at home in East Cork. Her home is much quieter this week though, as she has now brought her three daughters to live with their grandparents for the foreseeable future.
“It was a very stressful decision, and I have felt under a lot of pressure,” she said.
Like so many other parents around the county, Ms Hanley says her own parents are crucial to help with childcare while she works.
She had very real concerns about potentially bringing Covid-19 home, given her role in ICU, and it then being passed on to her kids and parents.
She made the difficult choice of moving her kids in with their grandparents while she battles on the frontline.
“My daughter has asthma also. It flared up in January and she was back on inhalers. I couldn’t run the risk of her getting sick,” she said.
She felt the safest decision was to leave her three girls with her parents rather than potentially exposing them all to Covid-19.
“Obviously my parents don’t mind; 24/7 is a lot for anyone, but they understand. I work in ICU. I felt I had no option really.”
While Ms Hanley admitted that anyone could contract Covid-19 even just by going to the shop, she said this risk is much more real when you are going to work and treating patients with the illness.
“I know where I am going. And I know it is there. At the end of the day though, I’m putting my life at risk through my job and I don’t want to be putting other people at risk,” she said.
Ms Hanley accepts she won’t be able to do all the things she usually does with her children, but says she will be using technology, and a ‘high wall’ to keep in touch.
“My parents are in a small village, with a big garden and I plan on seeing the girls by sitting on the wall and watching them. My youngest is seven, then my next daughter is nine and my eldest is doing her Leaving Cert. She’s studying in what was my old bedroom, where I studied. They get on great, and we are a great family unit.
“It’s not that I won’t see them at all, but just in a different way.
“We are lucky we have technology.
“My eldest is great with technology and has set up ways to keep in touch with things like Skype,” she said.
Despite the increased risk to healthcare works, there has been a great sense of solidarity at CUH.
“We have good protective gear, and good management, and they mind you,” she said.
“We only said the other day, we’ll be like a big family at the end of this.
“It will be pressurised. And a lot is going to happen. The numbers are increasing, and it is scary for everyone.
“There’s a tension in the air,” she said.
“I’m fit and healthy, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is 100% safe.”
At the weekend, Ms Hanley posted a heartfelt plea on social media, urging those who can to stay home and to enjoy their children, as she can’t.
“I’m not afraid to go and look after the critically ill, what I am afraid of is how bad it will get if we all don’t slow it down,” she said.
Ms Hanley said she wasn’t looking for pity or praise, but wanted to get the message out to people stay home, to nominate one person to do the shopping only, to find the empty field or boreen for their walk, and to play their part in the national effort.
“I don’t want anyone’s family member in front of me.”
The ICU nurse said if she could even get one person to stop going out as a result of her plea, she would be happy.
“I just want to get the message out. I want people to think of the bigger picture,” she said.