COVID ICU nurse who missed child’s birth looks back as son turns 1

Updated: Apr. 5, 2021 at 6:02 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - There is something special about celebrating your child turning one year old. The journey from a newborn to a toddler is a roller-coaster of change, emotion, and development. Any parent will tell you the ride goes way too fast.

That’s why Andrew Bamber’s first birthday just before Easter was so special for his dad, James Bamber. An ICU nurse at Ochsner Hospital in Baton Rouge, he missed his son’s birth and many of those precious first weeks of life because he was busy caring for some of the city’s sickest patients. In fact, Easter Sunday last year happened to be the day Bamber got to hold his youngest son for the first time.

Andrew Bamber enjoys a birthday cupcake.
Andrew Bamber enjoys a birthday cupcake.(Family)

The pandemic reached Louisiana and the Ochsner ICU right around the time Andrew was due to arrive. With so much unknown then, Bamber had moved out of his home to protect his expecting wife and three other young children from anything to which he might be exposed. That meant staying outside and watching the birth of his youngest over Facetime from the hospital parking lot. However, Bamber said that was a small sacrifice compared to what families of COVID patients deal with.

“There’s no blueprint for going through a pandemic,” said Bamber. “We have no practice at it but everybody came together and we got through it.”

Andrew was a few weeks old when Bamber was able to leave quarantine and reunite with his family. But the pandemic didn’t end with their reunion and neither did the need at the hospital.

“I obviously love being at home with my family but, at the same time, I wanted to be back at work, helping everybody,” Bamber added.

RELATED: Working on the front lines of COVID-19: one family’s story of sacrifice and reunion

After a few weeks at home, Bamber returned to the front lines of the pandemic and to isolation away from his family. That left his wife, Katie, to care for all four kids. She credits a huge support system of family with getting them through that tough time. As a nurse herself, she understands the risk involved, even though she does not work on the front lines in her job.

“There still is that level of fear but, you know, we’re both pretty strong in our faith, so we had to push that aside and just trust that everything is going to be okay and just live our lives and be as cautious as we can be but continue on with our kids and enjoy life,” said Katie.

The Bambers did all they could to stay connected during that time, using Facetime and window visits with Dad. It would be another two months before they were all under the same roof again. After that, it wasn’t just the virus Bamber risked bringing home. He said the team he works with has had to lean on each other to shoulder the emotional and mental toll of their work.

“We all have to stick together, whether it’s at home or my family at work. We have to stay together,” Bamber explained.

A year later, things are calmer. James said he’s encouraged that there are fewer patients in the hospital. He and his wife both can look back and see the bright side to the chaos, including what Katie says is the blessing of focusing more on family.

“What I found was no matter what industry you were in, how big your family was, if you didn’t have kids, if you did, no matter what situation you were in, everybody sacrificed. Everybody was affected. I think everybody did a really good job of sticking together and getting on the other side,” he pointed out.

The Bambers hope that the other side includes more moments of families together celebrating the good things, like a birthday.

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