Let’s take care of those who take care of us

As the time ticks closer to ten, my mind trails off thinking the worst. My eyes, half-open, stare at the entrance of my house. It’s been 14 hours since I last saw her and I wonder how much longer. I finally hear the sound of the garage open and the swing of the mud-room door. I rush to the mudroom entrance but am suddenly told I can’t step any farther. There, a tired woman stands in a blue uniform. Her eyes are drowsy and gray. Her face is creased and red from the plastic PPE. Almost unrecognizable, I watch my mother’s tired body trail to her bed.

This has been a scene all too familiar to myself and many others who have family members that are frontline workers. Family members coming home (if they are even able to) and unable to find comfort in the touch of another. They are unable to stand near a family member or even stand in the same room. When we are unaware of this scene we forget the importance of COVID restrictions and how they are vital for the success of our healthcare workers.

This last year, COVID has hit many families hard, especially those with frontline or essential workers. I, like many others, no longer have the security of knowing my family members will come home safe and healthy. The constant thought of catching or spreading the virus looms over our heads. 

I have days where all I feel is numb. After hearing statistics, percentages, and rates every day, how can you still feel anything? The only feeling that escapes the numbness is fear.

I fear the day my mother won’t be able to come home. I fear not being able to see her for days and her having to stay nights in a hotel alone because of an outbreak. I fear the possibility of her spreading it to my smoker father who had pneumonia recently. I don’t even want to describe my biggest fear of all.

However, it is the fear of the unknown that clouds my mind. I will never know the true sacrifices my mother and other healthcare workers have made for the betterment of our communities and country. I am privileged in that I will likely never witness a human being take their last breath.

My mother has described the exhausting horrors she witnesses daily. Patients hooked up to lifesaving ventilators, some taking their last breaths without family to comfort them. Hearing constant codes over the intercoms that someone is dying. Having to move patients prematurely out of the hospital to make room for new beds. Nurses and doctors are emotionally and physically drained.

This is a reality of every hospital not just in Illinois but in the U.S. According to the CDC, roughly the same number of people that died on 9/11 die every day in the U.S. of Covid. In Illinois alone, we have had over 15,000 deaths, 904 of which are people from Dupage County. These are not just numbers. These are our neighbors, friends, and family members. For every person lost, that is another family heartbroken. It is not until we lose one of our own family members that we realize the true measure of life. Frontline workers, including my mother, are tired of seeing unnecessary lives lost. One life lost is already one too many.

The exhaustion I see in my mother’s face when she comes home makes me believe we are close to the breaking point. Our healthcare workers have become overwhelmed emotionally and physically. My mother has expressed her frustration as she witnesses individuals take advantage of her and other’s sacrifices.

We have all had to make sacrifices this year, but it is our health workers and their families who will have to pay the ultimate price if we don’t continue to sacrifice. We shouldn’t have anymore family’s broken by this. Children shouldn’t have to lose their parents just because of their occupation. I shouldn’t have to lose my mother.