Local nurse on frontlines of COVID-19 response forced to live away from kids with cystic fibrosis

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ZIONSVILLE, Ind. – The coronavirus forced changes for everyone, but one mom in Zionsville has only seen her kids from a distance for six weeks. As she saves lives in her job as an emergency nurse at IU Health North, she’s also fighting to keep those who she loves healthy.

“There’s always been going home, eating dinner, and there’s always been putting them to bed. There’s always been helping in the mornings,” Kristin Johanning said of her normal daily routine before coronavirus.

Johanning and her husband Eric are parents to three boys, 8-year-old Michael, 4-year-old Ryan, and 16-month-old Hunter. Michael and Hunter suffer from cystic fibrosis.

“Even normal viruses land them in the hospital,” Johanning said. “I don’t want to imagine what it will do with someone who has compromise with their lungs.”

She and her husband decided because of the risk of coronavirus exposure to their sons Kristin would move in with other family. 

“He was like, ‘Hey, if we’re going to really make this, actually secluding ourselves, you going back and forth doesn’t make much of a difference because you’re still going to bring it in because it’s in the hospitals,'” Johanning shared of her conversation with her husband. 

She now lives about 15 miles from her boys. Visits with her sons mean they see her from the balcony.

“Every Friday before I go to work, I’ve been eating dinner with them outside,” Johanning said of their new routine. “It’s definitely hard to drive away.”

She says, because of cystic fibrosis, her sons follow the six-foot rule all the time, but never from her. Now, before bed every night, Johanning and her sons Facetime, read stories, and play games.  

As she looks at this distance with no end in sight yet, Johanning continues to only think of others.

“My brother is in the military right now, and he’s off in the ocean,” she said. “If military families can do this all the time, even though this is hard, it’s doable and people just need to hang in there.”

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