Sandy Castro spends her work week at Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert, caring for patients with COVID-19.
When she isn’t one of the thousands of healthcare workers on the frontline of the battle against the virus, the 29-year-old nurse is caring for her children – Roman, 9, and Lilibell, 5 – and her husband, Daniel Zamora, 30, at their Mesa home.
“I’m so grateful to have them,” Castro said. “I know there might be nurses that don’t have that support system.”
The pandemic has brought on a new normal for everyday life for millions across the nation, Castro and her family included.
Both Roman and Lilibell are home all day taking classes online. Lilibell’s violin practices have also transitioned to an online chat setting.
Daniel watches the kids when Castro is at work during the day. At night, they trade off as Daniel heads to his job as a security guard at Banner Goldfield Medical Center in Apache Junction.
While in different roles, both have a chance to come into contact with patients infected by the virus on a daily basis.
Castro said their entire routine when they get home from work has now changed to keep their kids safe.
“I come in through the side gate and go directly into the laundry room to change and put my scrubs in the washer,” Castro said. “My shoes don’t come in the house. I then immediately take a shower before I see my kids or husband.”
Despite their young age, Castro said both Roman and Lilibell understand the severity of the situation and why the steps she has to take when arriving home from work need to be taken.
“They know that they aren’t supposed to touch me or go toward my work stuff because of what is going on,” Castro said. “They know that if we do any grocery shopping, they know they can’t go.”
Castro has been a nurse for two years. She began working in January at Banner Gateway in the Progressive Care Unit, which has also become the COVID unit.
She said at times they have been busy caring for patients, but they haven’t been overrun like other hospitals in New York and other states have been.
But she still recognizes the severity of the situation and knows she and her husband are at risk of contracting the virus every day they go into work.
That’s why the four of them have remained home since the state stay-at-home order in March.
“It’s not that I’m worried about myself, I worry more for my family members who could be severely affected by it,” Castro said.
“I don’t see my family, my siblings as much as we used to,” she added. “But it’s that potential for me getting it from work and giving it to someone that may not be as healthy or be able to protect themselves that worries me the most.”
Castro has seen the effects the virus can have on patients mentally since hospitals still are not allowing visitors.
She has had to teach patients how to video chat on their smartphones and how to use Facebook messenger to communicate with spouses and other family members.
It’s that level of care and comfort offered by nurses and other healthcare workers like Castro that has often been overlooked.
On Sunday, Mother’s Day, Castro knows she will be called upon to once again help those with children at home like herself communicate with loved ones on a day where they would normally gather together.
“It can be difficult but that’s our job. We try to bring as much support as we can,” Castro said. “I’ve helped mothers with Facetiming or video chatting with their children. It can be lonely.
“Sometimes sitting with them and just listening to them can help. It’s part of our role to give them that emotional support.”
Castro said her and her family celebrated Mother’s Day a week early since she is scheduled to work today.
While she would have enjoyed spending today with her family, they were able to make up for it. She knows she is needed elsewhere to support those in need.
“I love my job, so I don’t mind having to work,” Castro said. “We worked on our backyard, we made food, had a movie night. We just enjoyed family time at home.” ′