GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan mom and health care worker is hoping to raise awareness about employees fearful to return to work because they have family members at home with underlying health conditions.
Amanda Russell of Allendale has worked as a nurse technician at a West Michigan hospital for more than eight years, but has spent the last several weeks staying home from her job to protect her family. Both of her children have cystic fibrosis, a chronic genetic disease that impacts the lungs and other organs. They were already undergoing treatment to ease their breathing before the COVID-19 pandemic and are at high risk for developing a serious case should they catch coronavirus.
Because of this, Russell says going to work at a hospital would put her kids at risk.
“The thought of possibly bringing something like this back home is scary beyond words,” Russell said.
Since the onset of the pandemic, Russell has been able to take time off work, without pay, and still maintain job security under the Family Medical Leave Act. But she is now coming to end of the 12 weeks allotted to her under FMLA, meaning her family may soon have to make some tough decisions.
“It’s unfair to have to sit there and be like, ‘What’s more important, my children or my job?’” she said. “What’s more important? Getting money or having the health benefits?”
She said protecting her children will always be the priority, but she also relies on her job for benefits like health insurance that helps pay for her kids’ medical care.
Realizing her family isn’t alone in this fight, Russell joined a movement, led in part by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, asking Congress to expand family and medical leave for those with chronic conditions.