In-home nurses caring for youth with special needs during COVID-19 pandemic

Brandi Powell
Updated: May 01, 2020 06:37 PM
Created: April 23, 2020 05:17 PM

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS continues to highlight essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. One group of medical workers making a big difference for families are in-home nurses.

"We are going for a nice walk. Elise loves being outside, and feeling the breeze," said Jessica Pearce, clinical manager with Bayada Pediatrics Home Health Agency.

A breath of fresh air amid the difficulties of a pandemic. The work of Pearce and other nurses with Bayada is essential, and social distancing isn't an option.

"The way that she communicates best now is kind of by hand squeezes," Pearce explained.

In-home nurses working with Elise can't do their jobs without physical touch to communicate.

"I'm not worried about getting close to her, for her getting me sick, I worry more about me bringing something into the home," Pearce said.

Those are worries Elise's family understands firsthand. Elise has Niemann-Pick Disease Type C, a neurodegenerative disorder. The 14-year-old needs daily respiratory treatments.

"She's such a loving girl ... and a fighter," Elise's mom, Jen Barton, said.

As the mother of a child with special needs, when asked about how tough it's been to make decisions about Elise's care amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Barton said, "I think you wonder, 'Well, should we be allowing nursing into our house, it's bringing more people in,' and then you have to weigh everything. The treatments that she's getting from them to keep her lungs healthy, the things that they're doing to keep her healthy, to us, outweigh the risk."

In addition to feeding, bathing and medical care during the pandemic, the nurses are right by Elise's side, helping her with her education and physical movement, and wearing personal protective gear so they can continue working with their patients safely.

"I would do anything to be with them and make sure that they're having the best life that they can have," Pearce said.

It's something Elise's family can count on from the in-home nurses, each day, despite the uncertainties of COVID-19.

Bayada Pediatrics Home Health Agency said Girl Scout Troops and knitting groups donated personal protective gear for the in-home nurses to use.

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