I work as a patient service specialist at George Washington University Hospital. Each day I am registering over 300 patients — getting them in to see their physicians for their appointments, doing the insurance verifications. The stress is high and when this all started, I wasn’t able to do this work because of child care issues.

I have a 3-year-old-son who is usually in school when I’m working. I tried to contact a sibling to ask if they could watch him for even half days, but no one was available or they were sick. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t have any options. I started to panic because one week off work is OK, your job will understand. With everything that’s going on they’ll make an exception. But more than that… There’s only so much that your supervisors will understand. It got to that point where I was nervous I’d lose my job. I really needed another plan.

Then I learned about the Bright Horizons program through #FirstRespondersFirst through an email from my employer. I researched them and they have a reputable child care program, so I knew I could trust them with my son. They were very welcoming, friendly, and very helpful — it was a smooth transition. Before this I was worried about how I was going to work, how I was going to feed my family, and on top of all of that, where my child was going to be during this hard time. This was truly a gift.

Knowing that my son is in a nurturing environment and he’s been exposed to so many new learning materials makes me feel at ease. I’m here trying to take care of my family and he’s being taken care of as well.

I’m nervous about going to work every day. You don’t know if the person you come into contact with is sick or not, but I know that my job is a vital one. We are providing services to people who are suffering through serious medical conditions — their lives are much harder than mine. They remind me that I’ll get through this and I’m living day by day knowing I’m making a difference.

By Denishia Owens as told to Lindsey Benoit O’Connell

To help #FirstRespondersFirst Fund provide the supplies, equipment, and resources that healthcare professionals need to safely continue doing their work, text FIRST to 50555 or visit thriveglobal.com/firstresponders to donate.

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 infants through six-years-old.