I lost visits with my kids because I’m a nurse

Trisha 02

I was supposed to pick my kids up for a Spring Break stayca­tion on Friday, April 4. I had taken 10 days off work. For months, we’ve been planning and looking forward to 10 days of uninter­rupted time together. Gardening and cooking and baking and playing board games and snuggling and watching movies. 

Instead, Friday night I talked to my kids on the phone while they sobbed that they missed me. Mom,” they said through tears, We don’t know when we’re going to see you again.”

Instead of 10 days with my kids, I’m now alone, separated from them indef­i­nitely because a judge agreed with my ex-husband that my job as a nurse puts my kids at risk, and granted an emergency order barring me from seeing my own children. 

I want to share this so that you under­stand that your civil rights could be stripped away just as easily as mine. This is especially true for front­line workers — Police Officers, Nurses, Respi­ra­tory thera­pists, Doctors, Firefighters, Paramedics, sanita­tion workers, grocery store clerks, delivery drivers, anyone who is working to keep people alive and afloat in this pandemic. This ruling could poten­tially affect our essen­tial workers. If we are forced to choose between seeing our families or contin­uing to serve the public, where does that leave our communities?

As a nurse for the past 23 years I am proud of my profes­sion. As nurses we diligently, and without question or hesita­tion, care for those whether sick, injured, or dying. As parents we are equally diligent in caring for our families and our children. We are the people at the bedside caring, holding your hand while you cry, treating your pain, encour­aging you to keep going, supporting your family, educating, saving lives and fighting pandemics. What many outside of this profes­sion don’t see is that even though our life is surrounded by the pain and suffering of others, we manage to maintain profes­sion­alism and continue working because there is always someone else in need. Caring for the public is both a desire and a calling – however, we all have a calling to our families first and foremost.

Trisha 01

Nursing may be a career but it is a passion and duty that lives deep within a person. Recently, I have been forced during a time my services are in great need, to choose between my duty to care for others as a nurse or my duty as a mother to my three amazing children. No one should ever be put in such a position, regard­less of the circumstances.

On Thursday, March 26th, 2020 my ex-husband and his attorney sought an emergency ruling to restrict myself from any visita­tion with our children during the COVID-19 crisis. The emergency order alleged that I was a danger to our children because I am a nurse, and that I should not have any visita­tion with our children until the crisis has been averted. At this point, there is no end in sight and no set date to when I can see my children again. I believe no health­care worker should be discrim­i­nated against. I myself work in the recovery room, helping surgical patients and not COVID-19 patients. However, because of the gener­al­ized fear and misin­for­ma­tion provided, I have lost the ability to be a mom and care for my children. A ruling was entered in his favor by a Pierce County Washington Commis­sioner. I now have been denied the right to see my children until the COVID-19 has been controlled because I am a nurse, however long that will be.

My ex-husband, a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy, provided a written state­ment to the court where it is stated that he has access to infor­ma­tion about the COVID-19 virus that the general public has no access to (including myself as a health­care profes­sional), and used unver­i­fi­able infor­ma­tion to help bolster his argument. With no ability to corrob­o­rate the supposed infor­ma­tion, why are decisions being made out of pure fear and without profes­sional insight?

Nursing may be a career but it is a passion and duty that lives deep within a person. Recently, I have been forced during a time my services are in great need, to choose between my duty to care for others as a nurse or my duty as a mother to my three amazing children. No one should ever be put in such a position, regard­less of the circumstances.”

The Commis­sioner attempted to provide substance to her decision by commenting on the distance between homes as it related to Governor Inslee’s Stay at Home Order; however, her ruling is a complete contra­dic­tion to what was signed into law by the governor. Governor Inslee’s order states this does not affect custody/​visitation and parenting plans should be followed as ordered. The commis­sioner was made aware that the trip would include travel to his home and straight back to mine without stops. Despite my assur­ance, the commis­sioner made it clear that this would not alter her decision. Why is a Pierce County Commis­sioner super­seding the Governor’s wishes?

I believe an Ontario Superior Court of Justice (trial court) in Canada said it best, that ruling that that children should never leave their primary parent residence — even to visit their other parent — is incon­sis­tent with a compre­hen­sive analysis of the best inter­ests of the child. In troubling and disori­enting times, children need the love, guidance and emotional support of both parents, now more than ever. If there has not been exposure, recent travel, or personal illness, parents have no business keeping their child from the other parent amid the Coron­avirus and lawyers have no business empow­ering that behavior.”

In my experi­ence, health care workers are taking all precau­tions to not only avoid getting sick, but to prevent the spread of this virus. From the very begin­ning, I’ve taken this seriously. I change out of my scrubs before I leave work, and my work shoes never come into my house. I am careful to scrub down thoroughly the moment I come home. My groceries, prescrip­tions and anything else that comes into the house gets wiped down thoroughly. It is appalling to me that the commis­sioner could use the fact that I’m serving my commu­nity against me and make this ruling.

It is obvious that rulings such as these show that the legal system is capable of making decisions that are detri­mental and completely unjust. This partic­ular ruling encour­ages parent alien­ation and discrim­i­na­tion because of one’s profes­sion. That because of your profes­sion you should be separated and blocked from being a parent? You can care for other’s loved ones but not our own? We need to stand up against this immedi­ately and not allow this to set a prece­dent. We must prevent our work as nurses on the front­lines, others in the health care industry and first respon­ders from being used as a factor in consid­ering custody and visita­tion and put an end to this discrim­i­na­tion and destroying families.