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Anna Grace Downs

I always knew nurses were hard workers—they work long hours, care for people who can't care for themselves, see the unimaginable. They've always been heroes. But now, with the coronavirus outbreak, the spotlight is shining directly on the critical, life-saving work they do all the time.

Nurses and other healthcare workers all over the world are saying goodbye to the people they love every day (or, in some cases, temporarily living separately from them in order to keep them safe) and reporting for duty at local hospitals, offices and clinics to care for patients battling COVID-19. They're layering up, reusing and hoping they'll have enough personal protective equipment (PPE)—gloves, masks, hairnets, face shields, isolation gowns—so they can, as safely as possible, care for those who are sick and at-risk.

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Anna Grace Downs is a 26-year-old medical student studying to become a physician, who was in the ICU battling COVID-19 mid-March. She experienced extreme discomfort, pain and anxiety and her nurses were the ones who got her through it. Their compassion, grace and selflessness inspired Downs to write a "love letter" so she could honor the sacrifices they made in order to care for her "through one of the most grueling experiences of my life," as she notes in her now-viral Facebook post.

She wrote:


"Tonight I was having trouble sleeping. My anxiety was rising as I had a flashback to my time in the ICU with COVID-19 (only two weeks ago). All the blinking lights, the monitors' shrill beeping, the pull of the PICC line, the ache in my arm from IVs, the scratchy sheets, the chest pain, the shortness of breath, the smell of Johnson's baby soap, the medications dripping their way into my body.

"I was scared to even move my body for fear that it would cause my oxygen to drop. I do not know how many hours I spent staring at my oxygen saturation on the monitor, willing it to rise, willing my anxiety to fall. All I wanted was one breath, unmarred by discomfort.

"Then I remembered my nurses. The nurses that rubbed my back as a vomited for what felt like the 100th time. The nursing assistant who brought me cup after cup of ice water when my fevers would not abate. The nurses that fluffed my pillows and told me that I would make it. The nurses who took care of my basic bodily functions when I was too weak to even raise my head. The nurses who fought for me when my symptoms felt unbearable. The assistants who answered my innumerable presses of the call button. I even had one nurse who would just come stand and watch at the window to my room because she said she was worried about me.

"For several nights in the ICU, I had a nurse named Kelleigh. She asked me about my life and made me laugh with her unforgettable laugh. She was a godsend. She did everything to ensure a good night of sleep for me, which was essential to maintaining my sanity. I requested her specifically.

"Looking back, I realize I was so desperate that I did not realize that my request was putting her in harm's way. She was the ICU nurse who got stuck with the COVID-19 patient and she showed up anyway with grace and humor. I will never forget that sacrifice.

"When I was alone and terrified, these nurses became my family, seemingly taking care of me as they would their own children. From every 'Sweetheart, what can I do for you?' to every 'You're gonna get through this,' I felt their commitment and caring spirits. I could not have my family with me in the hospital but knowing that these capable and brave women were taking care of me left me feeling safe. I'm sure my parents appreciated all the phone calls the nurses made to let them know how their daughter was doing.

"I will be working as a brand-new physician in just a few months, and I know that the nurses in my new institution will be almost as vital to me in my role as intern as they were to me in as a patient in the ICU. I now have a deeper understanding of the role of a nurse, an unwavering respect for their call to help, and profound gratitude for the immensely hard work that they do.

"I cannot offer enough thanks to those women who stood strong with me through one of the most grueling experiences of my life. So here is my love and my gratitude and an infinite number of air hugs. The smiling eyes behind your goggles and N-95 masks will stay with me forever."

Thank you for sharing your story, Anna. And thank you to the nurses on the front lines of this scary virus.

Anna posted to Facebook this week to share the good news that not only did her new COVID-19 test results come back negative, but that she was also able to donate plasma to help those currently fighting the coronavirus.

According to the American Red Cross, "People who have fully recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their plasma that can attack the virus. This convalescent plasma is being evaluated as treatment for patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections, or those judged by a healthcare provider to be at high risk of progression to severe or life-threatening disease."

Anna, you sound just as amazing and selfless as the nurses who cared for you. We're celebrating your negative test results right alongside you!

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!

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