#SurgParenting has always been hard, then add in a pandemic

March 31, 2020

Kids and parents join Dr. Brooke Gurland for virtual yoga during the shelter-in-place.

“We all value military families but I’d never felt the experience of ‘Mom may not be able to come home.’ What if I should die from this? What if the worst should happen?”

Those are the questions Dr. Kristen Rumer found herself asking before her first COVID19 shift as an emergency general surgeon.

To keep her two daughters safe, Rumer says she strips out of her “COVID clothes” in the garage, squirts santizer on her hands as she walks through the front door and then immediately jumps into a hot shower.

“No one knows what is the right thing to do so this is what I’m doing. It’s totally ridiculous,” says Rumer.

To provide some sense of serenity to the surgical community, Dr. Brooke Gurland is offering twice daily yoga classes via Zoom, including one session specifically for parents and their kids.

“I’m looking at the yoga as a way of connecting and trying not to lose our minds,” said Gurland. “I have my yoga teacher certification, but I know surgery. I’m winging this, but then I think the whole world is winging it right now.”

Gurland’s version of “winging it” is not like that of normal people. Within the first five minutes of class she had all the participants mooing and meowing through cat/cow poses, fathers and sons buddying up in child’s pose, and even doing a sun salutation to the tune of “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.”

Two of Gurland’s most enthusiastic participants were Dr. Matt Murphy’s young son and daughter.

“We had already exhausted the morning’s art project of making butterflies by painting our feet and my wife needed to do a teleconference. My phone dinged with the Yoga reminder, and it was like a gift from God,” said Murphy.

With two under five in a double-doctor household and children out of daycare, Murphy says it’s hard to get work done, but he and his wife have developed a creative repertoire of activities to keep the kids engaged from picnics in the cactus garden to glow-in-the-dark puzzles and (albeit begrudgingly) a subscription to Disney+.

“My five-year-old, she gets it. She asks “Daddy, when the Canadians come up with a vaccine, can we play in the park again?” Murphy laughs; his family moved to Stanford from Toronto in 2018. “She’s been really good though. She makes artwork for her friends, rings the doorbell and then stands far away on the porch so they can answer.”

Getting to experience moments like these seems to have been the unexpected silver lining of the pandemic.

“I have both of my girls at home, having every meal together, watching movies and playing board games together,” says Rumer. “My mother’s heart is so full of joy and love.”

StanfordMed Child Care Options