By Vicki Greene, Contributing Writer
Southborough – During the coronavirus pandemic four members of the Wickman family of Southborough have played an important part on the front lines, working as nurses at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
The Wickmans’ unique story caught the attention of NBC’s Today Show producers who will feature them in a live interview on Friday, May 8, followed by a taped segment to be shown on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 10.
Rosemary Wickman has been a nurse for nearly 40 years. She, along with her daughters Katie and Kristina Wickman and son-in-law, Brad Robillard (who is married to her daughter Jill) all commute together into Boston as they all work the weekends and the same three day, 12-hour shifts. The three sisters all have a child under the age of one as well.
Kristina, speaking for the family, credits her mom with inspiring her and Katie for going into nursing.
“She worked multiple nursing jobs while we were growing up and loved what she did,” Kristina said. “She was able to manage it all and never missed our sports or events.”
All three Wickman girls went through Southborough schools and graduated from Algonquin Regional High School.
Jill Wickman is a lawyer while her husband, Brad Robillard, who went back to school for his nursing degree (and continues to work as a realtor for Keller Williams), is known in the family as “the COVID guru,” according to Kristina. He is a floating nurse at Brigham and Women’s and was a member of the team that created the COVID unit at that hospital in March.
Rosemary, her daughters and son-in-law, have been working together for over 10 years and though they all work in different areas of the hospital, they now are all working with COVID patients. They have the same concerns as any working parents, for the safety of their spouses and their young children.
“It’s scary because you don’t know what you’re walking into (at the hospital) every day,” Kristina said. “You worry about the safety of your kids, but we change at the hospital leaving our scrubs and shoes at work before we all get in the car to come home.”
The girls’ father, Chuck, is retired and prior to the outbreak, ran “Papa’s Daycare,” watching all three grandchildren, all under the age of one, while his wife, two daughters and son-in-law went to work.
“We had a family meeting when the virus hit because my dad is over 60 and we were concerned but decided it was safest to have the kids together rather than placing them in daycare at the hospital,” Kristina said. “Because Jill can work from home, her baby daughter is able to stay home.”
Rosemary and Katie are both nurse supervisors on the same medical floor but in different areas. However, they both have worked with COVID-positive patients given the demand for rooms.
Kristina is an oncology nurse, but said the hospital was able to consolidate oncology beds so she and other staff were moved to the COVID unit. She said the toughest part of her job is handling her feelings of empathy, as she sees sick patients in bed with no family or friends allowed by their side. She also cannot sit and talk with her patients as she has always done.
“I’m used to showing my patients pictures of my kids and talking about their lives and interests but now we’re not allowed to bring anything into the rooms,” she said.
While some may wonder what it’s like to commute to work for years with family members, Kristina said in this time of fear and uncertainty it’s been a blessing. Her brother-in-law Brad can answer virus-related questions and her mother has been a calming voice.
“My mom always says, ‘I know you’re scared but these are human beings, always treat your patients as if they’re family,’” Kristina said.
Early on, when concern over a lack of PPE made headlines, Kristina said the “outpouring of support from the Southborough community was incredible.” She said people were contacting them and dropping off masks and asking what they could do to support the family.
“I should ‘knock on wood’ but so far we are all physically fine, but it does take an emotional toll so I’m thankful that we have each other (to lean on),” Kristina said.
The family taped the Today Show segment May 1 on the campus of Framingham State University due to social distancing requirements, coupled with the rainy weather that day. The family is scheduled to do a live interview on Friday, May 8, with the taped segment due to be part of the show on Sunday, May 10.