An Atlanta mother of four who works as a nurse practitioner recently shared her experience about leaving her young family behind to travel across the country to fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Dakoyoia Billie, who has a husband and four children, revealed to Parents magazine how she did not hesitate when it came to pledging her services to aid COVID-19 patients in New York City earlier this year.
“Yes, I have four kids and a busy life as a nurse-practitioner, but when I saw a chance to care for those who needed it most, I couldn’t say no,” Billie said in a first-person essay featured in the magazine’s August issue.
Bille revealed how she received an “emergency request” calling for health care workers in New York City at the end of March – a once hot spot for the coronavirus.
The request came after just weeks of finally bringing home twin babies — a boy, Karrington, and a girl, Kinsley — from the hospital NICU with husband Marcus. The twins were born at 29 weeks in December.
Billie recalled to Parents how her husband told her at the time, “If you feel you can make a difference, then you should go.” She also came to the realization that being away from home would protect as well as provide for her family, which also includes their two sons, Jaylen, 16, and Elijah, 4.
“I’m a nurse-practitioner, and this was a call to practice what’s known as the art and heart of nursing,” she said. “My hospital in Atlanta had a few COVID patients, and if I stayed, bringing whatever I came in contact with home, I would put the kids at risk. The dangerous work also paid well, as it should.”
Just days after being recruited and submitting an application for the job, Billie found herself on a plane to New York. Billie admitted how she struggled to adjust to the workdays which included 12-hour shifts for three weeks straight.
“The beginning was tough. Really tough. I learned to compartmentalize by concentrating on the fact that the work was temporary,” she told Parents. “I’d tell myself: ‘I’m here to help, and when it’s all said and done, I’ll be a part of history, and I can go back to my family.'”
And while she always had adequate protective equipment, Billie pointed out in the essay how the hospital staff was often “overwhelmed” by the situation in New York, which resulted in little communication with the patients’ family members.
“When I’d reach out, they’d say, ‘Thank you, this is the first news we’ve heard,'” she explained. “I could set up Zoom calls between patients and their families, which made a world of difference.”
And after completing her long shifts, Billie noted how she would routinely leave her shoes outside the hotel room door and sprayed all of her clothes with Lysol before taking a shower. And when she was finally clean, Billie would FaceTime her family in Atlanta — sharing how the calls motivated her to keep on going despite rough days.
“Seeing their luscious cheeks and hearing their voices helped me push on. My 4-year-old, Elijah, would ask if I’d come home when I was done saving lives, and I assured him that I’d be home as soon as I could,” she recalled. “He was happy with that answer as long as he could admire my stethoscope.”
And despite being away from her family, Billie said she was still involved by arranging for her grandmother and two part-time caregivers to look after the kids, helping her “supportive” husband get his own work done.
In addition, she would take hours out of her day to pump breast milk — noting how she would keep it in a cooler until Fridays and then send it home to her family, revealing how it “wasn’t cheap, but it had to be done.”
Billie noted how over time, New York grew progressively better with fewer and fewer hospital patients going into cardiac arrest or not breathing. And by June, the mother of four returned to Atlanta and reunited with her family but just for a short while as she was then called the following month to help COVID-19 patients in San Antonio, Texas.
While she continues to work in Texas and make friends “with people of all backgrounds, all of whom put aside differences and came together,” Billie said she still has no regrets about temporarily leaving her family to be of service in these trying times.
“It may be Atlanta that needs help next time, or maybe some other city,” she shared with Parents. “Whatever happens, I’ll be ready and willing to do the same thing.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.