Healthcare workers from Sacramento to Syracuse are resting easier after a North Texas woman’s Facebook post suddenly started a movement.
On March 23, Emily Phillips formed a Facebook group called RVs 4 MDs to fight the Corona Virus to connect medical professionals who needed to self-isolate with people who had RVs, trailers, or campers to lend. A week later, the group has reached more than 2,200 members, and dozen of matches have been made around the country.
Requests for shelter are pouring in from those on the frontlines of the battle against coronavirus: from an ICU nurse from Plymouth, Minnesota; an emergency-medicine doctor in Lynchburg, Virginia; an ER security guard in the San Gabriel Valley of California.
Both requests and donations are coming quickly through the Facebook group, and Phillips is working around the clock with a team of administrators to meet the need.
“We can save thousands from exposure,” she says.
Phillips — an Arlington native — started the group as a way to “pay forward” the same kindness that had been shown to her own family.
Her husband, Dr. Jason Phillips, is an emergency physician at a Legacy ER, a 24-hour emergency room and urgent care center. They and their three young children — 8-year-old Landon, 5-year-old Ella, and 6-month-old Beau — live in a large house on secluded property in Celina, north of Dallas.
But as the coronavirus grew more widespread in North Texas, the Phillipses worried about Jason exposing his family to infection. Emily and one of the children have asthma, which puts them at even higher risk.
“We have a really nice situation here as far as not living near lots of people, and we even have a housekeeper who does a really good job of disinfecting,” she says. “But we don’t know what my husband is bringing into the house. He sees up to 150 patients a day, and it only takes one droplet to contaminate the family.”
Rent houses and hotel rooms didn’t make sense for their children nor their pocketbook, so her mom suggested parking an RV on their property.
On March 22, Phillips made a Facebook post seeking a camper her family could borrow. A friend of a friend stepped up. And then a second offer came in.
Phillips thought she might be able to make some connections, so she created a Facebook group. Donations began streaming in, and matches were made throughout Dallas-Fort Worth, then as far away as Houston, Missouri, and California.
Just in case
Daisy Brockman was one of those matches.
Her husband, Dr. Craig Reece Brockman II, is the director of emergency medicine at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Frisco and, as adjunct faculty at UT Southwestern Medical Center, he supervises residents at the Parkland ER department.
They have three kids, ages 20, 18, and 15, and Daisy takes care of her elderly parents at their nearby home. Her 85-year-old father has dementia.
Every day, her husband interacts with patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. They’d been preparing since about late January for the pandemic to arrive in North Texas, she says. But they didn’t anticipate a potential shortage of medical workers' personal protection equipment (PPEs) — which could put them at critically high risk for exposure.
“Reece and I were pushing around ideas on Friday [March 20] about how to isolate him from us with airborne precautions, and our open-plan house doesn’t lend itself to that,” she says.
Daisy Brockman connected with Emily Phillips through Facebook, and within 16 hours, an RV in Prosper had been offered.
The Brockmans now have a fully-equipped, 15-foot trailer stored and ready when they need it. They’re working with the city of Frisco on a permit that will allow them to park it in front of their home.
“Just the weight off my shoulders since the camper arrived, and the weight off Reece’s shoulders, is just amazing,” she says. “Within three hours, I could grab the trailer and get it hooked up and be ready.”
They’ve already figured out how to install Wi-Fi and they’ll arrange chairs so they can sit outside “together,” 20 feet apart, she says.
Brockman is now one of the administrators of the Facebook group, helping Phillips find matches for the many campers that have been offered.
Both offers and requests come via Facebook posts in the group. Commenters can help offer connections, and group admins work out logistics. Requesters can pick up trailers themselves, or contributors can deliver them. All campers are required to be cleaned and disinfected prior to loaning. Other legal and insurance requirements are required and explained, as well.
Phillips — who runs a software company but has never organized a philanthropic endeavor like this — says she has no idea how big the group will get or how far it might reach. Her only goal is to set up as many healthcare workers as she can with safe shelter, as quickly as possible.
“I just care about getting these RVs to the doctors,” she says. “The more people who hear about it, the more chances we get.”