By Stephanie Scurlock, as told to Jennifer Clopton
"Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear scrubs, like our daddy. Stay home."
It’s hard to convey all the things I was feeling when I wrote that line at the end of March and posted it on Instagram along with a photo of my 3 children wearing their dad’s scrubs. I had no idea the photo would go viral. I just wanted to remind people that behind every healthcare worker risking their life to help in this pandemic are family members now at increased risk from this virus, too.
I was tearful as I posted the picture – in part because of the sweet expressions on the faces of my children – Ryan, 6, Rory, 4, and Griffin, 18 months. I was also moved while taking the photo because, without my asking, my children had grabbed hands while standing there swimming in their father’s scrubs. The symbolism of them standing strong together against this virus left me quite emotional, and, as I had hoped – it moved others, too.
The photo garnered a lot of attention. It was shared countless times and seemed to strike a chord with many, and I am grateful for that. I hope it reinforces why we all need to stay home right now – regardless of our age or our own risk factors for COVID-19. It takes all of us working together and doing our part to flatten the curve. If you don’t want to do that for the most vulnerable among us or to help healthcare workers by reducing the impact on hospitals, then maybe you’ll do it for our children.
My goal in sharing the photo was to make people think about all the people standing behind and supporting our country’s essential workers who are now at increased risk for the virus themselves. Some are adults like me, who understood that marrying an aspiring doctor, for example, might one day bring increased health risks.
Our essential workers understood what they were signing up for when they embarked on their careers, too. My husband is a chief general surgery resident at a Massachusetts hospital. Now he is regularly on call to help care for COVID-19 patients in the hospital ICU and at the makeshift hospital that’s been built at the convention center.
But others, like our children, didn’t get a voice or say in the matter. Nevertheless, they are bonding together in the face of this virus. We are holding strong and staying home to protect those in our lives doing important work and I know that across the country, children of healthcare workers, grocery store workers, delivery personnel, police and firefighters, and more are doing the same.
The risk is great - not just for those fighting this virus on the frontlines but also for their families and loved ones. We were all reminded of that by the heartbreaking news out of Michigan that a 5-year-old girl– whose mother is a police officer and father is a firefighter – just passed away from complications of the coronavirus.
I worry about my husband every time he goes to work. He has the protective gear he needs to do his job, which I am very grateful for. Even so, healthcare workers have tested positive for the virus at his hospital, so I know that’s always a risk for him too. He worries less about himself and more about what he could possibly bring home to us. Our house is too small for him to isolate, so for now, we take all the precautions we can. We keep his work clothes separated from ours. He showers as soon as he gets home, and we disinfect his phone and badges every day.
Here’s the thing. This virus is forcing all of us to change our behavior and shift our mindset. We can no longer just think of ourselves or rely on others to handle this problem for us. This pandemic requires each one of us to do our part for the betterment of our country, our cities, and our communities. Our nation’s essential workers are putting their lives at risk every day to protect all of us. Their children and families are doing the same. Please think of all of them and then ask yourself – what can I do in return?
Stephanie Scurlock has 15,000 followers on Instagram, where she regularly posts about marriage, motherhood, and a life in medicine.