Coronavirus: Ontario ER nurse spends entire pregnancy working the COVID-19 front line

Working in the emergency department during the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for health-care staff.

“There was a huge amount of uncertainty … you never saw emergency patients, you saw all these possible COVID-19 patients,” recalled Michelle Byrne, an emergency department nurse at Trillium Health Partners’ Mississauga Hospital in Ontario.

“When the COVID cases did come in, it was all-hands-on-deck,” added emergency attendant, Michael Byrne.

Read more: ‘The unknowns’: Giving birth amidst the worldwide coronavirus pandemic

For Michelle and Michael, as a couple working the front lines, it’s been especially difficult.

“Being somebody who is married to somebody in the field, who knows what he’s going through, it was hard for both of us at the time,” added Michelle.

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What she did not know at the start of the pandemic would further heighten concern.

Read more: Pregnant in Edmonton amid COVID-19? Here’s what you need to know

“Of all the times in the year, this is probably not the best time,” Michelle remembered thinking after finding out she was pregnant with the couple’s first child.

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“It was like, oh my Lord!” recalled Michael.

They were thrilled to be expanding their family, but worried for Michelle and their unborn baby.

Read more: Coronavirus: Toronto nurse speaks about caring for Canada’s first COVID-19 patient

“There was a lot of pregnant women who were far along in their pregnancy who were leaving — many physicians, many nurses — so for me, to make the decision ‘do I stay or do I go,’ was huge,” she said.

Official guidance from public health officials varies about whether pregnant health-care workers should be in close proximity to patients during the pandemic.

Many have switched to virtual care for the duration of their pregnancy.

For Michelle, as a nurse in the emergency department, that was not an option. She decided to stay the course.

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Read more: Mom wakes from coronavirus coma to learn she gave birth to twins

“We didn’t get in this job to walk away from this, we got into this field to help,” she said.

Michael was nervous, but supported her decision.

“As health-care workers we did have to go on, it’s our job, we signed up for this, we’re here to help other people,” he said.

Nine months later, having spent her entire pregnancy on the front line, Michelle gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

Charley Helen Byrne joined the front line family.

Read more: Effects of coronavirus on pregnancy still mostly unknown, Canadian researchers say

“She truly is the perfect baby and people have asked me, my husband has asked me, ‘Michelle what do you want for Christmas?’ and I have everything I need right here, with her,” she said.

The perfect gift after making a huge personal sacrifice.

“Kudos to my wife … just the most amazing person I’ve met in my entire life and in the last three weeks she’s the best mother I have ever seen,” said Michael.

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