My siblings are health workers and I’m worried
My big brother and sister treat patients during what is typically one of the happiest moments of their lives– the birth of their children. And for my siblings, this is the most rewarding job in the world. My brother is an OBGYN resident, and my sister is a labor and delivery nurse, both at local Miami hospitals.
As the coronavirus started to spread around the United States, I wasn’t particularly worried for my siblings. Sure, they were working in the hospitals, but it didn’t seem like they were as high risk as, for example, primary care physicians testing patients for COVID-19. Delivering babies seemed safe to me. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case.
During our second week of extended spring break, I got news from my older sister that she had to be in quarantine because of possible exposure to COVID-19 in the hospital. After hearing this, I made sure not to leave the house either because she had been over for dinner one night before she knew. This was weeks before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis put out a stay-at-home order for the entire state. While my family was social distancing for the most part, I continued to see my siblings (there are five of us in total) and their kids at our weekly Sunday dinners. Looking back, this was probably not the best idea.
This time of self-quarantine for both me, my parents and my sister triggered paranoia. Would this keep happening to her, I wondered. I reassured myself that at least she was young and healthy, but I worried for my 64-year-old dad and how this may affect him.
Of course, my mom began coughing and coughing and coughing, and I continued worrying endlessly. I started to feel a little unwell, very hot, but every time I took my temperature, the thermometer read 98.6. I knew my anxiety was just taking its toll.
Eventually, my sister was given the all clear, and she headed back to work. But work is no longer her happy place, she said. She is living with the reality that she may continue to be exposed unknowingly to the coronavirus each day that she’s in the hospital, and she worries about passing it along to others.
Unless a patient has tested positive for COVID-19, my sister and her coworkers aren’t allowed to use protective gear because her hospital is in short supply, she said. This shortage is pushing my sister to sew masks during her days off for herself and the other nurses on her floor.
As every state in America competes to get supplies from the national stockpile and private companies, Florida healthcare workers are feeling the effects. DeSantis announced Florida had ordered millions of supplies, but he said he doesn’t know when this equipment will arrive, NBC 6 reported. Without the basic essentials, and no clear sign that any are coming soon, my sister said this is the first real time that the government has failed her and that she’s felt the real effects of that.
But my sister is a nurse for a reason. She has sunshine and light inside of her, and no matter what she is going through personally, she has made the commitment to be there for not only her patients, but for her coworkers who are suffering as well.
Today on her day off, my sister, a highly gifted baker, is making cookies to cheer up her coworkers at her next shift. Tomorrow she’ll be sewing masks. And after that, she said she’s going to give her coworkers manicures since none of them are able to go to the salon.
Nurses are stepping up, and nurses like my sister are going above and beyond to make it through this. I hope our government will too.
My brother has also seen the effects of coronavirus on the community first-hand. After being in the hospital, he started to feel some mild symptoms and was then tested for coronavirus. After a few days of waiting it out at home, the test results came back inconclusive. He was told to stay at his house for the full quarantine period, but after that, he is heading back to work, likely to continue to face the same issues my sister is: lack of supplies and uncontrollable exposure.
During this time of social distancing, his wife, a lawyer, is working from home with their two small kids. They had planned a special Harry Potter-themed party for my niece’s and nephew’s birthdays later this month, but that has been postponed until further notice. For now, it is almost assured that my niece and nephew will celebrate their third and first birthday in quarantine.
My niece is going stir-crazy, and I can’t blame her. Whenever I Facetime my brother, my nephew never seems to be wearing any clothes– I can’t really blame him either.
Both of my siblings will continue to come into contact with COVID-19 over the next few months. They miss their families, their friends and like all of us, they are ready for this to be over.
To stay connected, my siblings and I are hosting a weekly book club over Facetime and Zoom sessions during happy hour (I of course will be indulging with virgin cocktails).
My family is trying to stay as normal as possible, but with two of our loved ones on the front lines, we’re all worried.
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