I’m a respiratory therapist working the night shifts at two medical facilities — Seattle Children’s Hospital and Harborview Medical Center. I’m also a single mom to my 3-year-old daughter, Asia. 

I work about 70 hours a week for eight- to 10-day stretches, and I also homeschool Asia. From 11 to 1 and then from 3 to 5 we are doing lessons, then I go into work at 6 p.m. until 6:30 or 7 a.m. the next morning. When I started working all these crazy hours, my family would have Asia at night, then I’d get home from work, go spend some time together, and then try to nap a couple hours while my mom helped again, but it was never good sleep. Everybody’s on day shift schedules, so I think that that’s kind of hard to relate to. I try to explain that I have to sleep during the day so I can go and do it all again. 

I’m balancing two jobs, so that’s stressful in itself. But I’m coming home and realizing that I’m the threat to my family. When my brother got sick and was rushed to the E.R. with a heart rate over 200, he started to become respiratory compromised, and I was blaming myself. Thankfully, he was ruled out for COVID-19, but that’s a fear I think all of us have — that we could potentially be carriers.

I got an email from work about the Bright Horizons child care hubs for medical workers and immediately applied. Within a day, they contacted me to say we were accepted. I feel like I won the lottery. I’m a single mom, I struggle for money, I couldn’t believe it was real. Once we got in, everything changed.

Picking Asia up on Friday was wonderful because I slept for the first time in a really long time — and it was quality sleep because I didn’t have to worry about her. I feel way more productive and it’s allowing me to be able to have better quality time with Asia, too, because now she has her teacher at Bright Horizons so I can connect to her on a mom level.

It was hard for Asia, too. She can’t do the normal things that she used to do. She can’t go outside and she hasn’t seen another kid in four weeks. Having the experience to go to school has been quite a blessing. She was just going crazy at home. Now she’s so much happier. Today’s Saturday and she asked, “Am I going to go to bye-bye school? I want to go to bye-bye school.” She wants to see her teacher, Kayla, who she’s bonded with there.

Doctors are dying and nurses are being intubated — it’s just a really scary time to be in healthcare. But I think it’s also really inspiring because you have programs like this that are here to support you. We’re faced with this reality, but at the same time, the community appreciates us and we’re being recognized. You find beauty in that.

This story is by Amy English as told to Lindsey Benoit O’Connell.

Want to help the healthcare first responders on the frontlines of fighting COVID-19?  Donate by texting FIRST to 50555 or visit thriveglobal.com/firstrespondersfirst

Conceived by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Thrive Global, and the CAA Foundation, #FirstRespondersFirst is an initiative created to provide first responder healthcare workers, ranging from minimum-wage hourly workers in home-care settings to social workers, nurses, physicians, and beyond, with physical and psychological resources they so desperately need as they serve on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through their partnership with #FirstRespondersFirst, Bright Horizons is offering free child care for the children of first responders, enabling this workforce to have peace of mind to focus on their critical jobs. The centers have special COVID-19 protocols in place, including limited capacity and small group sizes, enhanced teacher-to-child ratios, and intensive hygiene and cleaning practices to protect the health and safety of the children and staff. The centers will be staffed with expertly trained and experienced local Bright Horizons early educators, and available for children ages infant through 6 years old.