What It’s Like to Be a Caretaker During the Coronavirus Pandemic

hands in gloves

Blythe Kinsey is a certified nurse, midwife, and a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.  She has been a provider at HealthNet, a federally-qualified health facility (FQHC) for the last 10 years with the OB/GYN/Midwifery department providing care for women with Medicaid, the uninsured, and/or women seeking midwifery services for their well-woman care, pregnancy, and birth. (Disclosure: Blythe Kinsey was my midwife, 4+ years ago.)

Blythe KinseyShe leads with a positive attitude, but grounds herself in facts. And the facts these days are ever-changing and hard to pin down. “Read only the most reputable of sources [the CDC, medical journals], and only the most up to date,” she says. (We wholeheartedly second that sentiment.)

When asked how she’s dealing with her own anxiety, Kinsey took a deep breath. She took a lot of deep breaths during our talk. “The anxiety comes in waves, I think [as different information comes to light]. So, I try to limit how many times I check the news to only a couple times a day.” 

The weekend of March 13th, conversations among her co-workers at the clinic truly started changing. Who really needs to be coming to the clinic, or not? Why now? Because the guidelines changed. Recommendations for limiting groups went from 250 to 50…to less than 10 people in a matter of days. Blythe knows Indiana’s State Health Commissioner, Dr. Kristina Box, personally, and has faith in her leading the charge. 

The HealthNet team started making the logistical decisions to mitigate exposures. Flattening that curve, as they say. Prenatal care? Pregnant women need to be seen. All other women coming in for their annual check-up without any risk factors? Their appointments most likely can be delayed. It’s complicated. And this weighing of options – it’s not just to protect patients. It’s also to protect the medical professionals.

Another recent development? “I’ve gotten a lot of requests for home births,” she tells Indy Maven. Blythe herself does not perform those, so she is sending out a lot of referrals. In normal times, last minute referrals aren’t usually accepted by home birth midwives, but these are far from normal times. If her patients plan to deliver at Methodist, they can bring only one support person—and that choice of person cannot change, again to limit the number of people the patient and the caregivers come in contact with. Unprecedented times, indeed.

Kinsey continues to check in with herself, asking, “What am I doing to keep myself safe and is there anything I can do for my mental health and physical health?” She’s keeping up with her City Yoga classes –now available to her via Zoom – and focusing on the mantra, “Let go of what you cannot control.” Oh, and she’s also giving her patients full permission to indulge in comfort food right now) 

“I think we all should be acting as if we are positive, as if we have coronavirus,” she says. “You may or may not have symptoms, but you should be doing everything you can to protect other people as if you have it, and by doing those things you should be protecting yourself as well.” 

As testing ramps up so will the numbers, but she is quick to state that COVD-19 has been grounded in America for a while, and so far, we are doing okay. So – you know the drill – heed the social distancing recommendations, wash your hands, and hold tight your loved ones (the ones you live with, at least.

Thursday, March 19th was Kinsey’s first day at Methodist since everything changed. She takes another deep breath again. She’s nervous. On the one hand, she doesn’t expect potential COVID-19 infected patients to be in her triage; on the other hand, her triage center is for obstetrics so… there is a possibility that patients might be admitted who test positive. It’s the unknown that is the source of so much anxiety –for her and for all of us.

But remember: Blythe leads with positivity. “It’s a big wake-up call. And I think little things will be forever changed by this, and that’s not bad. We have to take the positives from it, and there are really a lot of positives. And again, that’s really, coming in. Taking stock. And getting close. And finding joy in those things. And think we just have to focus on that stuff.”

Maura Malloy is a writer, actor and one-time Tedx Talker living in Indianapolis.

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