Moms on the Frontline 

Five steadfast and courageous Orange County moms, serving the community amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Paramedic

Stephanie Maynard
Job: Orange County Fire Authority firefighter/paramedic
Residence: Central Orange County
Family: “I’m a single mother of one boy who is 7 years old and is in first grade.”

What inspired you to make this your career?
“I have been a firefighter for 13 years and a firefighter/paramedic for two years. I had always wanted to be a firefighter as they had helped me when I was in a car accident in my 20s. The camaraderie of station life, uncertainty of what we may encounter and nature of the fun tasks hooked me.”

How does COVID-19 compare to what you’ve experienced before?
“The emergencies are the same but how we respond and the protective equipment we wear are much more mindful to what’s going on. The biggest concern is what we could take home to our families due to our exposure.”

How has it changed the way you do things? 
Donning our PPE takes even more time. While it may appear that our sense of urgency is not there, this is not the case. We are required to protect ourselves. I just hope that the public understands our need to take the necessary precautions in the midst of their emergency.  Since we can’t test our patients in the field, we have to take these necessary steps just in case our patients have COVID-19.”

How has it impacted the calls you get? 
“COVID-19 has noticeably reduced our call volume. There are more calls for flu-like symptoms, but we have also seen an increase in anxiety-related calls because of the fear of this disease.”

How is it impacting you on an emotional level? 
“Our job is to be there on someone’s worst day, bring calm and order, help them in any way we can, and then be ready to help the next person. Although frustrating and stressful, we don’t have time to mix our personal life with our professional life.”

How do you “decontaminate” after a day’s work?
“After our 48-hour shift of living with seven other firefighters, I shower and change into my civilian clothes for the trip home. I wash my professional attire at the station.”

How has life at home changed?
“Life at home is more difficult because the home projects, broken appliances and daily chores haven’t stopped. But now along with everything else, I have to fit in a full day of school, keep my son focused on education, prepare all meals and snacks, and get us both some exercise.  Nothing is the same for any firefighter. Mothers everywhere are feeling the stress of running the household and now playing the role of the teacher.”

How are your kids taking it?
“We have talked about the virus. He misses his friends and understands the need for caution but as long as he can play with Legos, he is fine!”

Are you homeschooling?
“Yes, everyone is homeschooling. We don’t have a choice. It’s a huge challenge because I’m gone for 48 hours and I’ve had to hire someone to watch my son while I’m at work and I can’t expect them to homeschool him in addition to their own children. It creates more work for the days we do have together.”

As a first responder, did you ever imagine you’d be on the frontline of something like this?
“When we are hired for this amazing career, we take an oath to save lives and preserve property. We are given a foundation through our training to handle emergencies as they come and we are handling this dynamic situation as proficiently as possible.”

What do you want people to know?
“I would like for the public to keep in mind that firefighters see some of the most gruesome incidents that cannot be unseen. We are normal people doing a dangerous job during an extraordinary crisis.”

The Deputy

Kassy Green
Job: Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputy sheriff II patrol in the City of Mission Viejo
Residence: Mission Viejo
Family: Landon, 11, Macy, 10, and Savannah, 6

What inspired you to make this your career?
“I began my law enforcement career with OCSD in April 2016. I have been a deputy since November 2016. My mother was murdered in 2013. It was a crushing blow to my life, my children’s lives. My whole family was dealt a devastating loss. I was a stay-at-home mom at the time and still participating [in] the USAF Reserves. I always wanted to continue with a career to help people and this pushed me towards law enforcement.”

How does COVID-19 compare to what you’ve experienced before? 
“The overall vibe in the community is just different. You can feel people’s worry and how unsettled everyone is.  You are looked to by the public and even friends and family for answers and comfort. It is a heavy weight to carry on your shoulders, but part of why we all signed up to do this job. Protocols change often and it was difficult to keep up initially with the day-to-day. We all seem to have our footing now, but it is still an uneasy feeling to not know what the future holds.”

How has it changed the way you do things?
“Not being able to shake people’s hands or offer a little extra comfort or condolences is harder than I thought it would be. Keeping your distance and telling someone who just called you for help to stand back a little is difficult.”

How has it impacted the calls you get?
“Calls vary from day to day. There have been more calls involving people in their homes. Different domestic issues where people are trying to adapt to not being able to leave and do activities like before.”

How is it impacting you on an emotional level?
“The hardest part is wondering when things can get back to normal and if it’s going to be a new normal. Being in law enforcement, the potential for a disruption in our ‘normal’ shift work is there, but the uncertainty of how we will be needed to help our communities is stressful. We are expected to be there when we are needed and this pandemic is proof of that. We are here for our communities, but the sacrifice our families make don’t go unnoticed.”

How do you “decontaminate” after a day’s work?
“Even before this I would never bring my boots home. We walk around in all different types of scenes, so that is a huge germ carrier. I keep my uniforms separate in a plastic bag and wash on sanitize cycle at home. Then disinfect the washer before doing another load. Always wash my hands and arms before even getting into my car and just do the best I can to keep surfaces clean. My home is my sanctuary, so I have to make sure it is safe.”

How are your kids taking it?
“I have explained to the kids that we have to stay safe and clean to help stop the spread of the virus. I have never had them be so willing to wash their hands every five seconds. They seem to have a good grasp on it and are adapting well.”

Are you homeschooling?
“We are doing distant learning full force. Between time with their dad and I, we have been able to get into a routine. All of their teachers are amazing and so helpful.  There are growing pains, but we are getting through them.”

Has it changed your view on the importance of your job? 
“I see now how people really lean on those in a position of authority to look for guidance. If I can bring peace to someone or let them feel not alone, that’s all that matters.”

The Nurse

Brittany Morrissey
Job: UCI Medical Center ER nurse
Residence: Rancho Mission Viejo
Family: Carver is 5, Knox is 3 and Hayes is 1 on May 15. Her husband, Dane, is a firefighter/paramedic at Huntington Beach Fire Department.

What inspired you to become a nurse?
I always knew I was going to be in the medical field, I feel like it was always my calling.”

How does COVID-19 compare to what you’ve experienced before?
Even though California and the rest of the country are in a state of emergency, we at UCI have had time to prepare and are in the ‘calm before the storm’ phase and waiting for the wave to hit us. So we have this uneasy feeling most days at work and are prepping as much as possible. We have also been able to learn from our colleagues in areas such as China, Italy and New York.”

How has it changed the way you do things?
“At work we now have a code clean every two hours. I wear a mask most of shift, but for the most part it is the same. As an ER nurse I am at risk to exposure all the time — from scabies, tuberculosis, meningitis and so on. It is part of the job, so in the ER we try to always take appropriate precautions. That being said, hospital-wide, we are worried about potential PPE (personal protective equipment) shortages and that is a worry I never thought I would face.”

How has it impacted the cases you get in the ER?
“In the ER we have seen a drop in non-emergent visits. It seems most the community is staying home. The cases we do see in the ER are truly critically sick patients.”

 How is it impacting you on an emotional level?
“All the information available, constant discussion and keeping up with policy changes at work is mentally and emotionally exhausting. In California, we have not been hit hard yet, so the constant waiting and prepping at work is unnerving. It is easy to [get] caught up in the panic/anxiety and I have to make a concerted effort to focus on the facts. With my husband’s and my professions, I almost feel like I do not get the luxury to worry — we have to go to work and help others regardless and we have to keep a positive tone at home so our kids don’t stress or worry. The kids feed off our energy, so I try to stay positive.”

Are you concerned about your family’s exposure?
“I am, but again, I always worry I might bring home some nasty bug that gets them sick. I have backup childcare in case my husband or myself get sick and/or show signs and symptoms during this particular pandemic.”

How do you “decontaminate” after a day’s work?
“I’ve always taken my work shoes off before going inside the house. I change out of my uniform as soon as I get home and wash my hands.”

How are your kids taking it?
“My older kids know that there is a virus that is making a lot of people sick and that is why we can’t go to school or fun places. They are handling it better than expected and washing their hands more frequently. They just miss their friends.”

 Are you homeschooling?
“Yes, my oldest son is in [transitional kindergarten]. We are doing distance learning. He has taken to it really well, but I think it is because his teacher is amazing.”

 Did you ever imagine you’d be on the frontline of something like this?
“As a nurse, you always know a pandemic could happen and therefore we practice drills at work for various types of disasters and train for potential situations. It is just a reality check when it does actually happen. In a weird way I am grateful to be a part of this so we can be better prepared next time.”

The Doctor

Grace Lozinski
Job: Medical doctor and chief quality officer at Hoag
Residence: Irvine
Family: Daughters Nicolette Petrie, 10, and Natasha Petrie, 8. Her husband, Russell Petrie, is an orthopedic surgeon.

What is your role on the COVID-19 team at Hoag?
“I am working very closely with infection prevention, as well as administration and medical staff leadership on our preparedness efforts.”

What’s it been like on the frontline?
“At times overwhelming, but more than anything, the collaboration has been tremendous with regard to everybody pitching in, everybody using their particular skillset, talent, leadership skills, everybody coming together and in a concerted effort to really ensure that we are prepared to take care of the patients we have and also prepared to handle additional volume that may come our way as well. There’s been so many moving parts and everybody’s working so diligently and in such a collaborative fashion to really ensure that we’re as prepared as we can be and also delivering great care to the patients that have already been through our hospital, or in our hospital currently. It’s been a tremendous effort, incredibly humbling as well.”

How does COVID-19 compare to what you’ve experienced before?
“The biggest challenge is the unknown. Humans have never seen this disease. We don’t have immunity to it. There’s obviously not a vaccine. Right now we’re going through all the different possible treatments. There’s no playbook for this. And that’s what’s causing I’d say a lot of the angst is the concept of the unknown. … I think identifying what a COVID patient looks like when they hit our doors — we’re learning. We are learning and the best way I can put is probably, we’re building the plane and we’re flying it at the same time. But we’re doing that very rapidly.”

Are you concerned about your family’s exposure?
“We take care of dozens of communicable diseases here at this hospital. We are used to taking care of things such as tuberculosis, sometimes measles believe it or not, multi-drug resistant organisms. I subscribe … to strict hand hygiene, doing all the things that the CDC is telling us to do — avoiding touching my face, rubbing my eyes. I am washing my hands probably no less than 100 times a day or sanitizing them. … I’m pretty much doing everything I’ve always done when I take care of other communicable diseases.”

How have things changed at home?
“The kids are at home and they’re doing distance learning at this point. They are pretty savvy when it comes to understanding the importance of the hygiene … they understand this is a global issue. We’re very lucky in that they’ve adapted well. My husband and I have been very honest about it … but in a very matter-of-fact manner without trying to dramatize it. The information that we do share with them is I think age-appropriate. When we get home, my husband and I, we do not talk about COVID non-stop. If the kids have a question, we’re happy to answer it. We want to maintain that sense of normalcy.”

Did you ever imagine you’d be on the frontline of something like this?
“I’m a biologist by training … and actually spent quite a bit of time in a virology lab after college. And actually ran research on viruses at UC San Diego. I’ve had a healthy, healthy respect for infections, in particular viruses, for quite some time. I trained at the tail end of the AIDS epidemic, I lived through H1N1 in the late 2000s, and then obviously with the Ebola situation over the past few years as well, I knew it was just a matter of time before one of these viruses was gonna be what I like to call the Goldilocks virus. I always felt that this was just a matter of time before the right virus would come up that would be able to hit all those parameters and it would really be a true pandemic.”

The Grocer

Rachel Rosen
Job: Grocery store worker at Stater Bros. in Garden Grove
Residence: Garden Grove
Family: Son, Carter, 4

What has this experience been like for you?
“It’s been pretty wild. I’ve never seen lines to get into a grocery store. That was definitely a first for me. … It’s been different, very different.”

How have things changed at work?
“Right before all the craziness started, we started seeing people at the store stockpiling random things — Cup Noodles and rice. Then it literally just hit. It was just crazy in the store. The lines were all the way wrapped around the entire store. There were people buying hundreds of dollars of groceries. It was like a holiday and it just continued, and all of the sudden our stores our out of product. It was really, really crazy to see.”

How do you handle going home?
“My mom is helping me watch my son while I work. I normally come home, I wash my hands and face. I usually throw my hair up in a bun. Then I go pick up my son. It’s a process. … I get into my truck, and I’ll clean my steering wheel. Little things you never think about ever, now you have to think about. You just don’t want to take that chance.”

How is your son taking it?
“So I just tell him that people are sick, because he doesn’t understand what the virus is … that we need to wash our hands more. He’s actually in speech therapy and we’re not going to therapy right now. His schedule’s been thrown off. He’s not used to going to my mom’s house all day. He’s not understanding why we can’t go to Chuck E. Cheese’s, why we can’t get a donut. It’s hard to explain to a 4-year-old. I don’t know what to tell him.”

How do you spend time together?
“He loves Play-Doh. We play hide-and-seek in the house. I still take him outside, we’re not around anyone. … He has a lot of energy. Keeping him contained in the house is difficult.”

You are on the frontline. Did you ever imagine you’d be in this position?
“Absolutely not. I always thought of like doctors and nurses and police officers and firefighters. They’re the heroes. I never thought that someone would thank me for selling them groceries. I was receiving text messages and Facebook things, ‘Thank you so much for what you do.’ Really? I’m just selling groceries. This is just what I do. It’s been nice. It was really rough for those two weeks that really hit us. And it was scary. It’s really nice to get appreciated, but it’s just weird.”

Does it ever get to be too much?
“I get anxious sometimes. ‘Am I gonna wake up one day and I’m gonna feel a tingle in my throat? Is today the day that I could possibly get it?’ I get real anxious.”

How do you feel about the important service you are providing?
“I think people are looking at grocery workers in a different light now. We’re working in it. We’re risking our own health, our family’s health to be there for our community. It makes me feel really good about choosing this as my career. Like I’m doing something important right now for somebody else.”

What keeps you motivated?
“I get asked a lot, why I still go to work. They’re like: ‘You can take time off and you don’t have to be there.’ But I always tell people that I want to be a good role model for my son. Just because it’s scary right now and there’s fear, I don’t want him to see that in me as his mom. Like I want him to know that I’m still doing what I love and I need to do it to be able to provide for him. … I feel like it’s my responsibility and my obligation to be there because I need to help everybody. We all need to be in this together. … I want him to always do the right thing too.”

—By Jessica Peralta