Pandemic Pains

By Seth Carpenter

Marianna Cooper gets her youngest daughter, Katie James, an afterschool snack. Friday, November 19, 2021 (Photo by Seth Carpenter)

For nearly two years, Marianna Cooper has worried about bringing her work home with her. 

As a nurse in the float pool, Cooper has been working around patients with COVID-19 since the pandemic originally began in the U.S. Already, that would be more than enough to gnaw at anyone, but like countless others in her position, she has had more than just herself to worry about. 

From the beginning, Cooper’s three children turned her 12-hour night shifts at Parkridge into 24-hour ones as she was faced with the possibility of bringing home the deadly disease every time she walked through her door.

“It’s always in the back of your mind,” she said. “You worry about doing simple things like giving your child a kiss on the cheek because… what if you’d had an exposure and you didn’t realize it, and now I’ve exposed my child.”

For the first eight months or so of the pandemic, she barely even slept in her own home just to avoid a chance of exposure. 

“Before we knew a whole lot about it, I was actually sleeping in a van,” Cooper says. “Anytime I had a possible exposure, I would come home and stay in the van until I had a negative COVID test, and this was not fun because in the beginning it would take days and days to get the test results back.”

The experience of having a mom for a nurse during a pandemic can be quite scary for children, something Cooper’s oldest daughter Calliope Bird can attest to. 

“There’s been times that it’s a little scary, but then most of the time I know that she knows what she’s doing, so I trust her,” Calliope says.

That trust means a lot to Cooper and despite the adversities they’ve faced, she doesn’t see the experience as having a negative impact on her children in the long term.

Marianna Cooper leaves for work. She was a night shift nurse working with COVID-19 patients. Sunday, November 14, 2021. (Photo by Seth Carpenter)

“I mean, children are so resilient,” she says. “I think it just became a part of our routine and [they] understood that.”

Things have finally begun to change for the family. All three of Cooper’s children are now fully vaccinated with the recent approval of a child’s dose by both the FDA and the CDC.

“I feel like I can finally breathe again,” she says. “Even though we’ve protected ourselves, you know my husband and I and my older son, we just couldn’t take a deep breath until we knew that they were also vaccinated.”

Cooper also encourages others to look into getting their own children vaccinated.

“Talk to your pediatrician,” Cooper says. “One of the main reasons I wanted to get my children vaccinated [was] not only because I work around COVID patients all the time, but also because children can get COVID, we now know that they can get sick [and] they can possibly die. Not only that, they can get COVID and they can be what’s called a ‘long hauler’ with only mild symptoms, so that’s scary.”

With her entire family fully vaccinated, Cooper is eager for the chance to be closer with her kids.

Marianna Cooper leaves for work. She was a night shift nurse working with COVID-19 patients. Sunday, November 14, 2021. (Photo by Seth Carpenter)

She says, “I look forward to being able to snuggle with them and all the things that I haven’t been able to do for a long time.”


Seth Carpenter is a photojournalist as well as the current Photo Editor of UT Chattanooga’s student-run newspaper, the University Echo. Recently, he told the story of how a nurse and her family have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. He hopes the stories he tells will make a difference in the lives of people around him. You can contact him at Sethcarpenter101@gmail.com

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