Balancing work and family life has always been a challenge but in the age of COVID-19, doctors are changing their lives to adapt to the pandemic.
Dr. Bri Budlovsky, a physician in the Emergency Department at the Royal Jubilee and Victoria General Hospitals, says when the pandemic hit she was afraid “more than ever before” to bring the illness back home to her two young children. Budlovsky’s youngest daughter was only six months old when she returned to work from maternity leave and within weeks, cases of the virus began to appear on the Island.
She says that while many frontline workers are separating from their families to protect from the illness, that’s not possible for her as she’s still breastfeeding.
“Going to and from work is more of a process right now,” she says. “I go to my car during my shift to pump, which means washing up and changing before I do this.” When her shift is over, Budlovsky showers at work and then again when she’s at home, she’ll wipe down her car with disinfectant and change out of her “travel clothes” without hugging any member of her family.
On top of all this, Budlovsky says her family will also likely isolate from her children’s grandparents “far longer than others” because of her high risk of being exposed and the risk of asymptomatic spread to them.
For Dr. Khala Albert, who also works in the Emergency Department at both hospitals, the experience has been similar.
“My car is now the ‘work car’— the car seats are in my spouse’s car,” she says, adding that she also has travel clothes and two pairs of shoes — one to wear throughout her shift and one for when she’s getting to and from work.
With two children are between the ages of two and four, when the pandemic hit Albert thought she’d be worried but says instead, she was inspired.
“I knew what my role was. I couldn’t step back from my duties as a doctor. I was proud to have skills that were useful. If anything, I feel a greater sense of purpose,” she says.
Both mothers look forward to Mother’s Day this year, but know it won’t be the same as those prior.
Albert says every Mother’s Day her daughter’s daycare would make a questionnaire booklet where the staff asks the kids, no matter how young they are, some basic questions about their mom. “The answers are hilarious,” she says, recalling when her daughter was asked why she loves her mom. “To which my daughter responded ‘she wears nail polish and I want to stay with her, but she still has to go to work’.”
She says it’s a bit sad that she won’t receive one of those this year, but will still try to enjoy as much of the day with her kids as she can despite having to work.
Budlovsky says her favorite Mother’s Day was the first one where she was a mom herself.
“All of a sudden, I saw everything my mother had done for me in a new light. With new insight, I felt a sense of deep gratitude for my mom for all that she did for me growing up,” she says.
Both mothers say the support they see from the community.
“When someone asks for help, they’re answered. Our sense of community in Victoria, our unity to others, is at an all-time high. So much is uncertain at this particular time because we don’t yet know when we can loosen these restrictions and regain a sense of normal. I don’t feel like a hero. I feel lucky,” says Albert.
As part of the Victoria Hospitals Foundation Hospital Heroes of Victoria initiative, anyone can send a message to frontline workers. More than 40 per cent of the equipment hospitals use is funded by donations through the community. To learn how you can help, or to send a message to a hospital hero, visit victoriahf.ca.