The question comes up every few days, but maybe not as often as you’d think.
“Mommy — you’re OK, right?”
My answer is always the same. “You know I’m not anywhere near Ebola. Mommy is reporting from outside the hospital. The sick people are far away, inside. Mommy won’t go anywhere near someone who has Ebola.”
My kids — 9-year-old Abby and 11-year-old Zack — probably know more about Ebola than most adults in this country.
I’ve been covering the disease and its impact from here in the United States since this summer. I have not traveled to Africa, though I’ve reported on the devastating impact there. I have spent weeks in Atlanta, Dallas, Omaha and New York, where the American patients have been treated.
Early on, when the assignment first came, we sat down as a family and had a long talk. This is not unusual for us. My husband Chris Bro and I have always had a policy of being open and transparent with our kids. They need to know (in an age-appropriate way) what I’m covering.
Of course, that can be really challenging when it’s a topic that all their school classmates are talking about. When I covered the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, we had a lot of very difficult, tearful conversations. When I covered the story of the women who were held captive in a home in Cleveland, Ohio, we never told the kids the full extent of the story. “There was a bad man…” was all we needed to say.
So this time, it’s Ebola.
My kids understand that Ebola is only transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids and that you cannot catch it by being in the same city, or even on the same block, or even a few feet away from an Ebola patient. They know that Mommy was not in danger when she sat in the ambulance used to transport the first American patient — Dr. Kent Brantly — to Emory University Hopsital. They know I was not in danger when I shook hands with recovered patient Ashoka Mukpo last week in Omaha.
For the most part, my husband Chris says, the kids have not been worried at all. They miss me a lot when I’m on the road. But they’re not scared.
“I think the nice thing is that you talked to them early when you first started covering Ebola,” Chris says, “and now it’s just a matter of fact — oh yeah, mommy’s covering Ebola. They’re not as freaked out as many Americans might be.”
My 9-year-old daughter watched this morning’s piece with a smile and afterwards said “Good job mommy.” Then she ran out the door to get to her singing group practice.
This story originally appeared on TODAY.