I haven’t had anyone to really confide in during this quarantine about my fears. My best friend died last year. Losing my wife — as well as my 9-year-old son, Ryan, who is on chemo treatment — is my greatest fear. My wife’s a nurse in a hospital. So three days a week, I watch my wife go off into hazardous duty. I thought as a vet that was behind me. Twenty-one years together, 20 years of marriage, I can’t picture life without her or having to watch her succumb to COVID-19, but she’s dedicated to her fellow nurses and patients, and she goes in even though I know she’s afraid.
Michael Taylor, 49, from Pensacola, Florida
I am a nurse practitioner in urgent care in the desert. March 13 was the first day I started testing patients. The large hospital down the street started sending physicians to us to get tested. On that particular day, we had about four COVID tests and not enough gowns for both a medical assistant and me to evaluate and test all four patients. I emailed my colleague over that weekend expressing my frustration with lack of communication and personal protection equipment. I couldn’t understand why the 475-bed hospital 1 mile up the street wasn’t testing its own physicians. I didn’t really get an answer.
Despite all the stress of work and reality of living through a pandemic, I am connecting with my 14-year-old daughter and reconnecting with myself. I have introduced my daughter to hiking. Twenty-plus years ago, this was my “thing.” In my late 20s, I hiked the Long Trail of Vermont, which is 272 miles. But life, marriage, motherhood, work, divorce, graduate school took over. My love of hiking just quietly slipped away. Quarantine and the act of social distancing has allowed my daughter and I to commune with nature.
Jennifer Wurster, 49, from Tucson, Arizona
My husband is a pulmonary and critical care physician, making him one of the most qualified to care for the sickest COVID-19 patients. At home, we have three young daughters, including a newborn who was born just three weeks before COVID-19 exploded in New Jersey. So our home is a myriad of emotions during this time of pandemic and quarantine.
At work, my husband is faced with a virus that is wreaking havoc — it’s nasty, unpredictable and unknown. His patients are incredibly sick, and the hospital staff put themselves at risk every day in an effort to treat and care for them with limited knowledge and resources. My husband was in the ICU the night they ran out of ventilators and came home looking like someone I’ve never seen before. And even though he is a healthy 39-year-old, it’s become abundantly clear that he is not immune from this nasty virus.
I am so worried about my husband’s physical and mental health. Even though he is meticulous in his decontamination when he comes home, I worry about what he could transmit to our kids, especially our newborn. I worry about my girls, who are clearly reacting to the social isolation, fear and not having their father around as much with regression and outbursts. I worry about my children’s grandparents and my immunocompromised sister and sister-in-law. I worry about those who live alone. If I feel lonely in a house with a husband and three children, I cannot imagine that pain. The worry is so intense that I feel pain in my body. My chest is constantly tight and heavy.
Sharon Rosen, 34, from Tenafly, New Jersey
Around my office, there are many individuals experiencing homelessness. We see them regularly when we are driving to my office. Today while we were there, in between calls, I urged my son to complete his school work. Instead, he sat gazing out the window. As I started to lose my patience with his apparent daydreaming, he looked up at me and asked, “When I finish my school work, can we go give the people who are sleeping on the sidewalk hand sanitizers? I’ve been watching them and I don’t think they have a place to wash their hands now that all the stores are closed.”
His question stopped me in my tracks, and I immediately stopped what I was doing. I smiled at him, and to his surprise, I responded that school could wait. Instead, he and I then loaded up his backpack with hand sanitizers and spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the neighborhood handing them out. We never did finish his school work that day.
Nancy Maldonado, 40, from San Diego, California
I am still working, in a hardware store. Grief overwhelms me constantly — at work, at home, seeing an old friend at the grocery store. My significant other, who is 71 [and] has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and heart disease, is self-isolating. I have gone from huge and wonderful hugs to none. Friends who are terrified of the disease are self-isolating.
It is understandable but difficult. I am a 64-year-old hugger with friends, family and a lover who are untouchable. But this week, a few changes occurred. A co-worker, talking about her relationship and crying, heard me and said, “I don’t care, I’m going to hug you!” A friend met me at the beach to walk our dogs and realized the depth of my grief and hugged me. Human touch is invaluable, needed — a need more essential than food or water. A dog and cat inhabit my home with me. They have worried and clung to me, feeling my despair. For these brief moments, I am immeasurably grateful.
Linda S. Bridges, 64, from Scarborough, Maine