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'I am up day and night' | Houston mother taking on duties due to nurse shortage

A Houston family has four children that need one-on-one nursing care 24/7. Their mother said it has been tough even getting nurses to apply for the job.

HOUSTON — A family in Houston has four children that need around-the-clock nursing care at home.

Due to a nationwide shortage of nurses, Caroline Cheevers and her husband said they haven’t been able to get the help they need for months.

The family decided to adopt children after having seven miscarriages. All of their adopted children are medically fragile.

Tyler, 13, Justin, 11, Haley, 11, and Ava, 7, depend on ventilators, feeding tubes and wheelchairs. Three of her four kids are shaken baby survivors. The fourth child has multiple genetic anomalies that have caused lung, heart and brain issues. All require one-on-one nursing care 24/7.

“We lost four nurses the first month COVID hit,” Caroline Cheevers said. “We are very, very short-staffed at night, so I am up day and night. I work full time. Also, I handle all my kids' medical appointments, so I am literally up for days at a time.”

She said it has been tough even getting nurses to apply for the job.

Kristen Robison, with the Texas Association for Home Care & Hospice, said the Cheevers family isn’t alone.

“This is an issue everyone is having regardless of whether it’s a rural or urban area,” Robison said.

Robison said wages for home care nurses tend to be covered by Medicaid, but they can’t compete with hospital and travel nursing jobs anymore. Robison said it was an issue before 2020, but COVID-19 has made it even worse.

“The state has not addressed the rates for nursing in Texas in decades,” Robison said. “As a provider, we see hospitals receiving COVID relief and cost of living increases. We have just been left behind.”

The pandemic put a spotlight on health care heroes. Caroline Cheevers said she just wants people to remember those needing help outside the walls of a hospital.

“They are just kids and they’re part of a family. We don’t get the services. It affects the whole family, not just the child,” she said.