To recognize the courage and sacrifice of our healthcare workers, we caught up with past D Weddings doctor brides and grooms to understand how the pandemic is affecting them.
First, they don the headcover; then, the N95. Then the eye protection, the gloves, and the gown. For Benjamin Morrissey and Lauren Fine, a husband-and-wife pair of emergency medicine physicians at Baylor University Medical Center—and past D Weddings cover couple—every shift now starts the same way, in the wake of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
But before the diurnal surgical gown came the Nardos Imam wedding gown—in the bride’s case, that is; in the groom’s, a Hugo Boss suit with a salmon tie. The doctor couple was married in October 2013 and their nuptials were subsequently featured in our Fall/Winter 2014 issue. And although the seventh year of marriage is sometimes cited as the year of rest, this couple has never worked harder, as they wage war against the coronavirus.
“She’s been the point person drilling our response,” Benjamin says of his wife’s work on the frontlines these past few months. “I’ve jokingly been feeling like I’m the COVID czar,” laughs Lauren.
Though not in a technical leadership position, Lauren has thrown herself into the fray, becoming an expert on the coronavirus and the sickness it causes, COVID-19. Quite simply, in her words, she and her team have started from scratch, creating solutions for problems they’ve never faced.
It is a battle both physical and mental, personal, and communal. Lauren wears glasses, for example; it’s difficult to put goggles over glasses, but she ought not to expose her eyes, so she bought prescription goggles, which are essentially like ski goggles.
“It’s uncomfortable,” Lauren admits. “I have indentations in my forehead at the end of the day.”
The abrasion and discomfort are mental, too: “You have to take [your personal protective equipment] off if you want to eat or drink something,” Lauren explains. “Then you’re stressing about, you know, ‘Should I eat? Should I drink? Can I go to the bathroom? Did I touch myself somewhere I shouldn’t have and then touch my mouth? Did I wash my hands enough?’”
The stress goes home. Lauren and Benjamin have two girls, ages 2 and 4. How does one avoid transporting the coronavirus from the ER to the living room? They strip down in the garage, putting their soiled scrubs in a trash bag. They put their hospital shoes aside because they can’t take them in the house. They wipe down the car with Clorox wipes. They shower in the in-law unit above the garage. Only then can they go inside and say hello to their children.
“It’s exhausting and it’s mentally challenging to then think of all the stuff you have to do after work,” Lauren says. “When you’re tired after a long day, just the mental exercise of protecting your family is extremely complicated. And just emotionally burdensome.”
The super couple has enjoyed spending time with their kids to cope and to relax. They occasionally watch Schitt’s Creek. They might or might not have an extra drink per day, we can neither confirm nor deny. But they’ve also asked the tough questions, like: Have you updated your will? (Lauren updated hers, which she hadn’t done since having their first child.) What would we do if one of us got sick? What would the other spouse do? Who would take the kids? This preparation is part of survival, Lauren says. Having a partner who understands the trials and stresses of such an intense line of work helps, too.
During our interview, both Ben and Lauren expressed their gratitude to Dallas-area and surrounding residents who have aided in slowing the spread of the virus—and who’ve gone out of their way to show gratitude to their healthcare heroes. “I want to share the gratefulness that I understand that people have made immense sacrifices in order to prevent a disaster for a large swath of the population,” Lauren says. Adds Benjamin: “Everything that people have been doing for the last couple of weeks has made a difference. … [And we do] appreciate every little gesture that people make—donating food or writing a card.”