Op-Ed: Family in Healthcare

“Everyone I Depend On Could Be Gone”

It has become the new daily routine- as soon as they get home, they go straight from the garage to the nearby bathroom to take a shower, sterilize their cellphones, throw scrubs in the wash, and leave work gear in the car so we never touch it. No declaration that they are home. No hug or discussion. Just disinfect and shower.

Each day it is the same routine- my parents leave the house early, often before we wake up. Fewer calls from them during the day because they don’t want to disrupt our online school schedule.

And I know they want to get home as fast as possible.

Each night I hear about new COVID scares, just hoping my parents don’t get it. Last week my mom was not feeling well. I tried to offer her food, water. She would not let me in the room. She did not want me to get sick. Instead, I took care of the meals for me and my siblings, dishes, helping my little brother with his homework- praying my mom did not have COVID. She got tested. That was the most stressful 24 hours, but then we found out she was negative. During this whole time, I am waiting to hear news about the modified AP exams and the SAT/ACT plan.

Somehow I am supposed to think about my future while every day I worry about my family.

In other countries where ventilators are being rationed, the elderly are not allowed to get this machine. They could suffer not from the virus but from the inability to receive proper care. I have never heard my parents talk of not having enough to treat patients. I thought that only happens in less advanced countries, but it appears not.

Somehow I am supposed to think about my future while every day I worry about my family. ”

My grandparents are typically a great source of help, especially taking care of my 9 year old brother. But, we have not seen them in 3 weeks because my parents are terrified that we will somehow give the virus to my grandparents. If they were to get the virus, with the ventilator shortage, it could be extremely dangerous for them- another one of my worries.

We miss our grandparents so much and we try our best with Facetime, but it is not the same as seeing them in person for our traditional Sunday night dinners or daily drives to school.

I feel selfish thinking of what else I am losing—-time with friends (Zoom just isn’t the same), missing prom or science fair, going to the movies. Wondering what will happen with college selection if I can’t take required tests or I don’t perform as well with all of these stresses and distractions.

I also see the financial impact of this virus. Instead of bringing patients in, my parents are trying to stop patients from coming to the clinic and hospital. They worry about their staff. It’s like gearing up for a war: pooling resources, minimizing exposures…trying to flatten the curve while the hospitals prepare extra rooms, block off COVID areas and ask the doctors to be ready to work hard as now the expected peak is in May.

I know I may be exposing myself but I don’t know if or when it will be my last hug with them.”

In the end, all I can do is what my parents ask- stay home at all costs, wash my hands, keep my siblings occupied, help with meals when they are working, try to find ways to distract from this whole situation. I have to do my part and hope we can get past this. In the meanwhile, I hear my parents talk about wills and putting affairs in order…Everyone I depend on could be gone.

So when each of my parents come out of the shower, dressed in stay-at-home clothes, I give them the biggest hug–I know I may be exposing myself but I don’t know if or when it will be my last hug with them.