LAWRENCE (CBS) – “I say this is her gas emergency,” Brian Moriarty says affectionately about his wife, Kim. He’s the Lawrence Fire Chief. She’s the Senior Director of Emergency Services at Lawrence General Hospital.
When the 2018 gas explosions hit the Merrimack Valley, the Moriartys didn’t see each other for four days. She was in the ER with injured patients. He was putting out fires. They’re no strangers to facing a crisis, and they’re back fighting one together – this time, with Kim on the front line.
“It’s caused a lot of worry, I’ll be honest. It’s hard to sleep at night,” Kim told WBZ. “I’m worried about my staff. I’m worried about their help. I want to make sure they’re safe.”
As of Friday, April 3rd, Lawrence General had tested 1,388 people for COVID-19. Fourteen staff members were COVID-19 positive.
Twenty-four patients are in the hospital receiving inpatient treatment for the virus. “I’m usually here at 6:15 in the morning and I usually don’t go home until 5:30 at night,” Kim said. She likes to see the overnight staff and the second shift in one day to check in. She’s also been working an extra weekend day.
Life is different at the fire station, too. “It’s actually become a little lonely,” Brian said. “We used to be able to get up and socialize with people and have our meetings together in the offices…The stations aren’t just open to walk into anymore. We’re taking precautions on all our calls…[and] we’ve asked people not to donate food…because we just don’t know where it came from.”
Working on the front lines of a pandemic comes with personal health risks, ones Brian and Kim are willing to take – but not willing to pass on to their family. For that reason, they’ve isolated themselves at home when they aren’t working. “It’s kind of put us on an island,” Brian said.
When Kim comes home from a long shift in the ER, she “comes up to the porch and washes her shoes with wipes and goes right into the shower and her clothes go right into the washing machine,” Brian explained. “I try not to touch anything,” Kim added.
The hardest part for them? Missing their kids and grandkids. “It’s horrible,” Kim said. “I’ll start crying if I talk about it. It’s probably the worst part of this. I don’t mind working long hours, I’ve been doing that my whole career. It’s the whole disruption to the rest of your life, so you’re not balancing your long hours with anything that feels good when you leave.”
For now, though, they’ll face this challenge to keep their community safe and healthy: Chief Brian Moriarty at the fire station, and Kim, with her pink surgical mask, in the Emergency Room.