I Wouldn’t Have Heard Her Laugh

Karla Peaster and daughter

Karla Peaster talks about her essential healthcare job, and what she would have missed if they’d had to send their 2-year-old daughter to live with her parents.

Talk to Karla Peaster, and you can hear it: the sound of determination; resolve; the balance of unwavering commitment with ever-present vigilance against worry.

It’s the sound of someone front and center during the pandemic, one half of a two-essential-worker couple working near or on the frontlines of COVID-19; she in the clinical testing lab at St. Francis Hospital in Oklahoma; her physician husband Jon on the direct frontlines at the Oklahoma State University Medical Center ER.

Both keep moving forward, yet constantly on guard.

“We don’t go out in public anymore,” she says ticking off just some of the things that have changed since COVID-19 entered their world.

“We only go to the grocery store. There’s so much sanitizing and handwashing and taking clothes off in the garage.

“My husband,” she says, “will not touch our daughter until he’s taken a shower.”

Despite all the worry and the vigilance, there’s one thing, she says, that could have made it all so much harder. That would have been having to send their 2-year-old daughter Cecilia away to live with Karla’s parents – a distinct possibility back in March when nobody was sure whether child care was on the governor’s list of essential businesses. Sure, the toddler would have had open space and endless hours to run on the family farm. But she would have been in Kansas, hours away from her parents in Oklahoma. And it wouldn’t have been home. “It would have meant being away from her for weeks on end,” says Karla.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do all the daily activities with her,” she says. “I wouldn’t’ have heard her laugh – been able to kiss her ouchies, give her a hug when she’s sad, put her to bed.

“Our interactions,” she says, “would have been through a video chat.”

That her center, the Ave Maria Child Development Center & Preschool, did stay open – and that the teachers continue to show up every to do the important work that they do – is just part what Karla calls the team spirit in fighting the pandemic. That includes the thoughtful strangers writing messages of hope, bravery, and gratitude on the hospital sidewalk. “Somebody took the time to write those words,” she says. “They mean a lot.”

It includes the medical specialists around the world focused on the same endgame. “I’m on a few Facebook groups and there’s just so much information out there with people sharing. It’s really cool.”

And of course, it includes the teachers.

“I’m so thankful for all of her teachers who are making their own sacrifices to help keep our family together,” says Karla.

 “We’re kind of all just a big team.”