SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News/CNN) – During the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing rays of sunshine coming from all walks of life. One, in particular, comes from RV owners lending out their unused campers to health care workers who need to isolate themselves from their families.
The national movement started with a FaceBook group called “RVs 4 MDs to fight the Coronavirus,” which has already garnered more than 28,000 members in less than a month. Hundreds of willing lenders across the country have been connected to medical professionals in need.
It all started when Emily Phillips, a Texas mother of three posted online asking if anybody had an RV her family could borrow for her husband, who is an ER doctor in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. A woman named Holly Haggard replied saying that Phillips could borrow hers.
“Before the RV, I was a nervous wreck. Every time my husband walked in the door or put his hand on something, I thought we were going to get COVID-19, including my baby,” Phillips told CNN. “But now that he’s in that RV, I’m back to my life, focused on my full-time job and my kids, and it’s completely changed our situation.”
Knowing that there were countless other families in similar situations, Phillips and Haggard partnered up and created the Facebook group, “RVs for MDs.” Little did they know, the simple Facebook group would grow into a robust volunteer organization, complete with a board of directors and network of volunteers spanning across the country.
Here in Utah, several matches have also taken place or are in transition.
An ICU registered nurse working at a Salt Lake City hospital, who we’ll call Jane Doe as she requested to keep her name anonymous, told ABC4 News the emotional and mental stress of working on the front lines doesn’t end when she gets home.
“When I came home, I would take off my shoes, put my clothes straight in the washer, and go straight into the shower without talking or touching anybody,” she said. “It was strenuous on relationships. I worry about getting them sick – my 8-year-old son and my parents, who are over the age of 50.”
Her concerns were alleviated after she was connected with Sandy resident, Patrick Warburton through the RVs for MDs Facebook group. Within just a day of meeting, he dropped off his camper to her home, so that she could be close enough to see her family but far enough to maintain social distancing.
“All these stories I heard about our healthcare workers really pulled some heart strings with me. That’s when I really wanted to help out as quickly as I could. I realized someone could use my RV way more than myself at this point,” said Warburton. “It’s such a small gesture that we can do for something so much bigger so that these people on the front lines don’t have to sleep in tents and garages.”
Another Layton member posted in the group, “Hello! I am a Registered Nurse working at Intermountain Medical Center and my husband is a police officer. We have three kids at home, one with severe asthma and we are both terrified to bring this (virus) home to our kids.”
Lehi resident Richie Wyler responded and offered his brand new 26-foot trailer. He said they’re scheduled to meet this weekend for the drop-off.
“I believe it’s the least I can do. They are out there risking their lives to help us. So we need to do everything we can do to help them,” Wyler told ABC4 News. “I can’t do their job, but I do have a trailer that was parked in storage. So why not lend it out to help them keep their family safe?”
Another RV owner living in Eden offered up their 23-foot Flying Cloud Airstream before a Salt Lake City healthcare worker said they were interested, sharing they were moving from the OR to the ICU and worried for their at-risk family members.
“A lot of people are calling healthcare workers heroes. But in all reality, it’s people like Patrick and the people in this group who are all heroes. We couldn’t do this without the support from one another,” said Doe. “I think it’s just absolutely generous that there are people willing to step up for complete strangers.”
Warburton said it’s his way to give thanks to our hometown heroes.
“From all of us, we appreciate everything they do for us on the front lines and we want to thank them for their hard work, time, and the long hours they’re working. That separation from family would be really tough for me. Thank you,” he said.
While the project has spread like wildfire, Phillips said what they need are volunteers to step up and take charge in the different states they’re receiving inquires from. They’ve also received help from attorneys, insurance agents, and IT specialists to facilitate the match process.
For more information on RVs 4 MDs, click here for their Facebook page.
If you are a healthcare worker in need of an RV or if you are an RV owner interested in helping, click here.
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