Adult and Pediatric Emergency Physician & Yoga Studio Owner, Rebecca Hutchings, New Orleans, LA USA

“On March 16th I had a high risk exposure in the Emergency Department, I did not have the appropriate PPE.  I woke my husband up at 2am, after getting home late from the shift, and we decided right then that I should isolate from the family. “

Rebecca originally grew up in Berkeley, California. She earned her undergraduate degree at Columbia University followed by Medical School at NYU. After eight years in NYC Rebecca was looking for a change of pace and decided to do her Emergency Medicine residency at Charity Hospital, in New Orleans. She fell in love with the city, continued her training in pediatrics at Tulane, and has been working in Adult and Pediatric Emergency medicine in NOLA ever since.

Rebecca’s husband is originally from South Carolina, and they met in New Orleans in July of 2001. Together, they have two children, a 10-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy. They also currently have two dogs, one of which is seven years old — and a “COVID puppy” (“making wise choices?” she questions).

During her almost 20 years in New Orleans, Rebecca’s sister moved there, her parents moved there, and her husband’s brother married her best friend from Pediatrics training. His brother even moved there, too — so they are building up their own little community in the city.

In 2017 Rebecca and her husband opened a yoga studio together in NOLA, called Live Oak Yoga. She had already been teaching yoga for three years and found that teaching yoga was a great outlet for her to prevent burnout in her life as a medical professional.

When Rebecca originally started her yoga journey 20 years ago, she was in medical school. Yoga gave her an outlet for managing her stress as she says she felt “very uncomfortable in her own skin” struggling to build her career, spending large amounts of time alone, studying and constantly worrying about whether or not she would “make the grade.” Although her dedication to her yoga practice has come and gone in waves since she loves keeping up a variety in her exercise routines (barre, cycling) yoga has always been a safe haven to return to.

“Some days I would come home from work feeling helpless, as if I simply lacked the tools to promote health.” Rebecca says teaching yoga gave her the tools to truly promote “health” in her community, and the balance that she needed to successfully move forward in her high-stress medical career.

“Yoga has taught me acceptance of my body and its limitations.  When I enter the studio, I am able to check my ego at the door.  It provides me with a fun outlet for pushing physical limits.   I have found a community of friends and created a practice space to explore what my body and mind can do.  And I have finally opened a family business.” Rebecca says.

Read more about how Rebecca balances her life as a mother, wife, emergency physician (who was actually quarantined due to fear of exposure at the beginning of the outbreak in the U.S.) and small business owner — all while facing the global pandemic — in her COVID Chronicle, below:

How do you find balance between all of your responsibilities as a physician, a small business owner, and your family life?

“Busy is baseline for me.  When I was little, my parents always said ‘she’s just on the right side of hyperactive.’  I like movement, and to have my hands in many things.  It helps that the yoga studio is a family business.  My husband and children are often at the studio helping with upkeep and yard work.  The kids are regulars in my family yoga class. 

Of course there are challenges sometimes, but emergency medicine actually gives me a lot of freedom to be available for my children.  I don’t work a traditional 9-5 M-F job, I work 12 shifts per month with administrative duties I can do largely from home.  This allows me to go to school activities, and field trips.”

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced during quarantine/the COVID crisis?

“On March 16th I had a high risk exposure in the Emergency Department, I did not have the appropriate PPE.  I woke my husband up at 2am, after getting home late from the shift, and we decided right then that I should isolate from the family. 

I packed up my toothbrush, my laptop, some yoga clothes and moved into the guest house (gloried shed with A/C, a bathroom and comfy bed) for 2 weeks.  On day 5, I got the Covid + test results from my patient, and on the advice of the infectious disease specialist at my hospital, I stayed isolated for the full two weeks.  I never got sick.  I continued to work, wearing a mask at all times, as was recommended by my hospital. 

My kids brought me clean clothes each morning, and we ate meals in the yard, 6 feet apart.  They were just starting their online school journey, and my husband was working during the days (he is a physician as well), and helping the kids via facebook messenger calls on their tablets was an experience for sure. 

I do think it helped the kids understand just how serious things were, having to live the first 2 weeks of social distancing and the stay at home order with their mother in quarantine.”

Has this experience in any way changed the way that you order your priorities in life? 

“I am always one of those super busy people, and I have kept the kids busy as well. Although I do wish that the kids could do things with their friends, and of course go to camp and school, I have enjoyed having unscheduled time with the family. We know each day there isn’t much happening, so we are doing game nights, family movies, and art projects together.”

What was your community there doing to fight the rate of transmission and who were you staying with? 

“New Orleans went on lockdown almost immediately, and kept the stay at home order longer than the state required.  This really did flatten the curve for us.  Although New Orleans doesn’t always do the responsible thing, or do things in the best way, we have really done a good job in terms of being strict with the rules.  I am actually proud of our city for this.”

What has been your general daily routine in quarantine? 

“It really varies from day to day for me.  I work 12 clinical shifts per month.  I have moved most of my shifts to either 3pm swing shift or the overnight, or weekends so that I can be home with the kids.  They have “camp” activities that they can do on their tablets, so the kids usually do an hour or so of that.  Then we walk the dogs, take a swim in our neighbor’s pool, eat lunch, and read for a little. 

It is very hot in New Orleans right now, so outside of swimming, we don’t do much outdoor stuff.  If I am working, I head to work, and the kids have a little alone time until my husband gets back from the hospital.  My son has swim team twice a week, so I drive him to practice, and my daughter and I usually walk around lake ponchitrain (near his swim practice) while he swims.  Evenings are quiet around here, board games, puzzles, home cooked meals.”

Courtesy of @liveoakyoganola

Has this travel ban/quarantine situation impacted any additional important plans you had laid out for the near future?

“We were supposed to go to Peru on a medical trip on May 23 for two weeks.  This would be our 3rd year on this trip, as supervising professors for LSU residents and medical students on a rural medicine rotation.  We have been bringing the kids as well, and we were all looking forward immensely to this trip.  It has been postponed indefinitely, as there is no university sponsored travel at this time.”

What have you been doing to keep your spirits up on a day-to-day basis? 

“Yoga has been helpful for me.  I practice pretty much every day right now.  We also got a puppy, and although she is a ton of work, she is super sweet, all love.  Training the dog keeps us busy, and it is a nice family activity we can all participate in.”

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