POWHATAN – The separation is hard, but it’s worth it for Heather Hogston to protect her parents.
For about six weeks, Hogston, a charge nurse at Sitter and Barfoot Veterans Care Center, has been living in a camper parked near her parents’ home. Normally she would be inside the house with her parents, Terri and Rodney Hogston. But because they are both considered high-risk for COVID-19, she made the decision to isolate herself from them.
“It worries me because you don’t know until it is too late with COVID-19. So I tried to isolate myself as much as I could in my bedroom, but it wasn’t easing my mind,” said Hogston, 32, of Powhatan.
She did find a way to ease her worries thanks to Amy and Reese Gordy, the Chesterfield County couple who own the camper she currently calls home. The Gordys donated the use of their camper through RVs for MDs to Fight the Corona Virus, a Facebook group that helps connect medical workers with people who can help them find temporary housing solutions during the pandemic.
The RVs for MDs Facebook page was started on March 24 by Emily Phillips, the wife of an ER physician in Prosper, Texas, after she reached out and was connected with an RV for her husband to use, according to a release from the group. She recognized a need across the country and started the group to help connect medical workers with recreational vehicle owners willing to lend a hand. Run entirely by volunteers, the relief effort is designed to be a “matching service” to help provide no-cost temporary housing solutions to America’s heroes.
Hogston reached out through the group at the beginning of April, and after some issues with handling water and septic had been worked out, Reese Gordy delivered the camper to her house in Powhatan about a week later.
“It was a major sense of relief. It just showed that there are a lot of good people still in this world, and in such a tragic situation as COVID-19, we really come together and unite through this,” Hogston said.
The Gordys bought the camper about a year ago so they would have a place to stay when they went to visit their son at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Amy Gordy stumbled upon the RVs for MDs page, and when she read the intent behind it, she thought it was fantastic. She automatically listed her camper, and when Hogston reached out, Gordy said she didn’t think twice.
“Actually, I told Heather yes before I told Reese what I did, knowing he would have been fine with us lending that to her,” Amy Gordy said. “There are so many people on that site who are willing to come and dump the tanks for free and come and clean it when they are finished for free. It has been amazing. I am not concerned at all. I was more worried about her being OK – having heat, having hot water, and being safe away from her parents.”
There are many people helping others during the pandemic in so many ways, and because they had this resource available, it was a no-brainer, Reese Gordy agreed.
Before her husband delivered the camper, Amy Gordy put a care package inside with some tangerines, Vitamin C packets, and a note telling Hogston they hoped the camper gave the nurse some peace of mind.
Amy Gordy said they are not concerned about when they will get the camper back. They want Heather to feel free to use it as long as she needs it as a safe space.
Hogston said the camper, combined with other precautions she is taking, have definitely lessened her worries. If she has to go inside the house for any reason, which is rare, Hogston makes sure to disinfect anything she has touched. One of the few reasons she goes in is to immediately wash her work clothes after a shift. Then she bathes in an outdoor shower her brothers built at the beginning of April so she could take long, hot showers.
For right now, Hogston said her life is pretty much work and home aside from the occasional grocery store run. She has been picking up quite a few double shifts, which means less time in isolation at home but also means less sleep.
When she is home, she is grateful the 21-foot camper is spacious. She has a cooking area complete with stovetop and microwave, a bathroom, a separate bedroom with a queen-size bed, and a bench couch. She had enough room to start a 1,000-piece puzzle, which is her main entertainment other than her phone.
“I try to keep as much normalcy as I possibly can. Honestly, when I am there I am generally asleep, trying to sleep, or doing my puzzle,” she said.
Hogston is a hugger, so going so long without being able to hug anybody has been hard, she said. She is staying connected to her family by video chatting with her nieces and parents every day and staying in regular contact with friends. The video chats make it a little better, she said, and remind her why she is doing this – to protect her family.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.