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Giselle—Registered enrolled nurse
(without notation)
Metropolitan Melbourne

Like many other healthcare workers, I consider myself a pandemic warrior. This is my story.

I was starting my fifth month of maternity leave when COVID hit Australia. My plan was to have a full year offhaving baby number four, we needed time to readjust to life as a family of six.

Months earlier, my husband had opened a business in hospitality and we had moved into a new house. A new business, bigger mortgage and our baby’s impending arrival were already putting significant stress on our shoulders.

By April, things began to worsen and returning to work early was a no-brainer. Lockdowns hit the hospitality sector the hardest and we were struggling to keep ourselves afloat. I needed to help more with the household bills, so I increased my hours and took all the extra shifts and overtime I could, trying also to help fill the vacancies the health system was experiencing.

I worked nightshifts only so I could juggle kids. Our baby was under six months, still being breastfed and refusing to bottle feed. I refused to give up breastfeeding, so I started splitting my hour breaks into two half hours so I could run back home in the middle of the night to breastfeed. This meant fully undressing on the doorstep in the middle of winter, worried I would make him, or anyone else at home, sick, even though I was wearing full PPE at work. In that first year, our knowledge about the virus and transmission was extremely poor, making the whole ordeal even scarier and making all healthcare workers feel guilty about putting our families at risk.

As months went by, things kept getting harder. Schools turned to home-schooling, so I had three primary school-aged kids plus a baby at home while my husband was working seven days a week trying to save his business. So many sleepless days and nights; my family overseas; no other support; so much loneliness and extreme exhaustion.

I worked without a break for three years, even after sustaining an injury that needed surgery. Because of COVID, the surgery was cancelled several times and my pain got worse, but I kept going to support my family and my exhausted co-workers. We were all stretched to the max.

It’s finally looking like we’re reaching the light at the end of the tunnel, but this is not over yet. I’m so proud of the resilience all healthcare workers showed during this hard time.