An open letter to Victoria by a Paediatric Registered Nurse in Melbourne

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Lori is a paediatric registered nurse in Melbourne who usually works in a busy high acuity ward. However, last week she was seconded for a week to swab children and parents in the hospital’s COVID-19 clinic. This is what she wants you to know…

I write to you with nothing but peace. This letter is not meant to blame, shame, judge. None of that is my place. I am here to remind you of whom we are fighting for. And what happens when force and muster rally against light and kindness.

I am a paediatric nurse who usually works in a busy high acuity ward. However, last week I was seconded for a week to swab children and parents in the hospital’s COVID-19 clinic.

It is here I realized the extent of what our children have been asked to endure.  No one talks about children. We are all so busy sulking over itchy masks that ‘take away our human rights’ or the event that couldn’t go ahead as planned.

No one has stopped to look at what this virus is doing to our children. Babies are being born who are missing out on key development, attachment and visual stimulation due to mask-wearing.

Did you know that we primitively talk higher and slower in order for our babies to follow along with our mouth movements?  As their eyes develop, the centre of our faces is initially all they can make out.

And now we have taken that away from them. How long will it be until they see and recognise a human face? What will this do to them in the long term?

That’s up to you.

What about the runny-nosed toddlers enduring a swab every few weeks because they are toddlers and its winter and their bodies are prone to catching every cold under the winter sun in order to keep their bodies’ immune system strong?

Their parents grab their hand and lead them along the blue line in for another invasive sweep and tickle by strange-looking humans in scary costumes.

They sit on their dad’s lap and lock their mouths shut as we coax our way in. They bury their heads into their father’s chest as he bear hugs them from behind while we rummage for bogies to test.

What about the children with masks so big they stab into their eyes. Or the child who has learnt to point to everything with his elbow instead of his finger?

What about the child in the tutu who leaves the clinic room distraught

“I’m so very cross, even at you mommy.”

They are the wide eyes blinking tears, the sneezing wrinkled noses. The stoic faces desperately trying to keep their hands tucked away from using their natural reflex of grabbing the stick that threatens to hurt them. As they know if they contaminate it, they have to go through it all over again.

Health care workers, we have been stripped of our raw bare faces to connect with. All we have is our eyes, tone of voice and body language to communicate our intentions with these little innocent souls. Get down onto their level. Play with them. Ask them questions. You already know all of this, but now more than ever we need to use every love language in our tool kit to help our children feel safe.

What about the parent who has to make another agonizing decision overtaking their child for another swab. What about the time it takes them to prepare their child, allow them to go through the trauma of swabs tickling the backs of their throats and then keeping them locked indoors for days until the text comes through.

Or the parents who have no choice but to take their asymptomatic child for a swab because the childcare centre won’t have them back until they prove a negative result.

What about the parents who have lost their jobs and are so filled with anxiety they cannot see past survival mode. They don’t know that their child understands and feels the extent of the trauma too.

None of this will stop until we come together.

I want to remind you of the children’s story of the quarrel between the North Wind and the Sun over who was stronger.

They both had their strategies of how they could strip a traveller of his cloak.

The North Wind blew and raged a storm with all his might. The more he tore angrily in vain at the traveller, the tighter the traveller wrapped his cloak around him.

The Sun, on the other hand, shone gently and brightly. As the sun’s rays grew warmer, the traveller himself decided to take his cloak off.

We can yell and defy the rules.

We can whip up words of legislation out of a quick Google search to protect ourselves.

We can walk where we shouldn’t and strip off our masks in public places.

We can call it a conspiracy. We can eye roll and argue ‘face masks do nothing anyway’.

We can force our so-called human rights with all our strength and might.

And COVID-19 will continue to wrap itself tightly around us.

Or we can come together in unity.

We can love each other so much that we stay at home.

We can wear our masks when we need to go out out of love.

We can help each other where we can and shine a little light on our situation.

And maybe, just maybe COVID-19 will strip itself away from us.

I know you’re scared and you want your freedom back. But we do not grow taller by cutting off the heads of others. Yes, this situation is devastating. No one wants to be here again. Our future doesn’t want to grow up believing having sticks poked up their nose every time they are a little out of sorts is normal.

We always have a choice. Every decision we make comes from two places.

We choose from love.

Or we choose form fear.

Our children are making sacrifices every day to help stop the spread.

I have seen it, I have been part of it.

Our healthcare workers are sweating in PPE all day to keep you protected.

Please recognise childrens’ experiences of this pandemic.

Please advocate for their mental health.

Please honour and respect the work health care workers and police forces are doing to keep you protected.

And do your part.