The World Flipped Upside Down
First came the initial faraway news about the coronavirus. Then came her husband’s nearly two-month deployment to Qatar. Finally, there was the explosion of COVID-19, from those early trickles in February, to the full-on pandemic it would become.
By the time the virus appeared in earnest in Florida, where Stephanie Carraway works at the Moffitt Cancer Center, the mother of one was caring for her daughter and worrying about whether her husband would get back home, all while being on call 24/7 at work.
“The world,” said Stephanie, sounding exhausted on what she called her first day off in weeks, “flipped upside down.”
All this for someone very much on the frontlines of the pandemic. Stephanie, as she explains, is an Infection Preventionist — someone with a Master of Public Health, whose job it is to keep pathogens from entering and moving around the hospital. If the fleet of doctors and nurses make up the convoy, Stephanie and her team are the first line of defense — the lookout patrol ahead of the tanks.
“We do hand hygiene. We watch surgeries; we handle everything from cleaning and disinfection to creating policies and procedures, educating staff, and making sure we will be able to provide appropriate personal protective equipment,” she said recently.
“The Infection Prevention & Control team,” she says, “has been working around the clock.”
Yet for all the upheaval, she says one part of her life stayed the same — her daughter’s routine. Early rumors that her Bright Horizons child care center might close proved not to be true — a relief since her closest family members are all over age 65, and live a minimum of five hours away. She ticks off the unviable solutions. “My parents couldn’t take care of her. My husband’s family couldn’t do it. Just thinking about finding someone…” she trails off.
“I don’t know what I would have done.”
As it is, she and her husband (who happily did make it home and continues working his own frontline job) have been able to continue working more or less business as usual, confident their 2-1/2-year-old daughter Madison is well cared for.
“It was a great feeling knowing her teachers and all the staff at the center were there to support us during these challenging times,” she says. As an Infection Preventionist, did she ever worry about safety? “I actually emailed our director and asked if they needed any help,” she said.
“He sent us updates every time something would change. And his updates made it clear they were following CDC guidelines and that they had someone who they were relying on for information. And what he was sending me was spot on.
“I didn’t have time to keep up with the day care,” she says. “And I didn’t have to. It was nice to know they were on top of it so I didn’t have to be – and I didn’t have to worry.”
High praise from someone in her line of work. And a relief for a moment in time she calls like the Olympics for her field.
“For an Infection Preventionist,” she says, “a pandemic is what you learned about in school but never thought you would experience.”