COVID-19: The Death of Empathy and Humanity

It was at the beginning of January of this year that I started following the developing situation In Wuhan in regard to a new coronavirus. Like something out of a movie, citizens of that city were being forced into quarantine, at times against their will. The news outlets made some mention of the situation in China but I questioned its validity because news sources at times sensationalize their reporting to increase viewership. As the days passed I continued following the situation, realizing the seriousness of it, and that it was only a matter of time before the US would be impacted. Towards the end of January, the first case in the US was reported out of Washington State. I immediately advised members of my family to stock up on food and supplies and as a result, was criticized and accused of being paranoid. “That won’t happen here, you’re overreacting”, is one of the many remarks I received from family, friends, and co-workers in return for my advice, but I insisted that based on what was happening in Wuhan and currently developing in Europe, the increase in the number of those infected in the US would be exponential. Fast-forward to the end of February and the nightmare had only worsened with the CDC informing Americans to prepare for an outbreak. At that point, I was in good shape as far as having adequate supplies, including toilet paper, to ride this out. It was now the beginning of March and I developed some cold and flu symptoms. Luckily they were relatively mild compared to what was being reported from the media, and it probably wasn’t related to SARS-COV-2, but I took precautions anyway and stopping my use of public transportation and limiting my contact with others as much as possible. At that point, I decided that attending lectures at Citytech might be risky as it involved sitting in spaces with multiple people that traveled on the subway, were probably not well informed about what was going on, or at an extreme oblivious to the severity of what lay ahead. I missed several classes but kept up with my school work, and then shortly after, the school transitioned to distance learning. I felt relieved, thinking I would no longer have to expose myself. That was until my father-in-law, a cancer patient developed breathing issues.

We called my father-in-laws’ doctor one afternoon and were instructed to bring him in to be examined. When we arrived at the hospital to our surprise he was immediately rushed in. Everyone seemed nervous as he was hurriedly wheeled through the building to an intensive care unit. When he arrived at the ICU he was immediately placed in isolation with no human contact except through a glass panel and via his mobile phone. The hospital feared he had COVID-19 and wanted to mitigate the risk of spreading the disease if he was indeed infected. Shortly after we were asked to leave the facility and prohibited from returning. A couple of days later his results came back negative and he was discharged. Medications were prescribed to treat his symptoms and a biopsy was scheduled to determine the cause of his breathing issues. The biopsy was canceled the day before it was to be performed due to the hospital being in “wartime mode” and its desire to focus resources on treating COVID-19 patients. A few days later we were again forced to bring him to the hospital due to shortness of breath. He was again admitted, again spent a couple of days there, was again checked for COVID-19, and then upon testing negative, was again discharged with no resolution. His health continued to deteriorate so a couple of days later we brought him to the ER a third time, but this time things were different. We were instructed to drop him off at the ER and were not allowed to enter due to a newly implemented “no visitor policy.” We called to check up on him but attempts to communicate via cellphone and video calls were unsuccessful. We requested access to him multiple times over the next few days and were denied each and every time. It wasn’t until my wife threatened to storm into the hospital, with no regard for the consequences, that the hospital finally allowed us to see him, but only one person at a time. Upon entering his hospital room, we immediately noticed things were not as they should be. His personal belongings which included a shirt that at some point was saturated with his blood lay on the floor along with his underwear, socks, and shoes. The room was noticeably dirty with blood spots and other stains on the furniture and the floor. Syringe wrappers were on his bed and we discovered he was laying on a plastic syringe cover for what appeared to be an extended period of time due to a deep indentation and bruising on his back. He lay there motionless, uncovered, and hooked up to a breathing machine that beeped incessantly. He complained of feeling hungry and not having eaten for days. As a result of his weakened state he was unable to feed himself and the hospital staff did nothing to ensure he received adequate nutrition. After we all visited with him, my mother-in-law was allowed to spend the night. During that time she fed him, cleaned him, and made sure he was comfortable, leading to an improvement in his physical and mental state. The next evening though, she was forced to leave by a head nurse that threatened to call security if she refused. Again he was alone, and he remained that way for an entire day, while we negotiated with the hospital for my mother-in-law to be allowed to re-enter the facility. The following day various members of the hospital communicated to us via video-conference that there was nothing more they could do for him and that no exceptions to their visitor policy would be made unless we agreed to transfer him out of the hospital and into hospice care. We immediately disagreed, which led to a social worker explaining to us that they could and would transfer him, even if we didn’t agree. They explained that if we did agree they would place him at an end of life unit in the hospital, where he would be allowed one visitor while he awaited transfer to the hospice care facility, but would not be resuscitated if he went into cardiac arrest. I reminded them that he had rights as a patient, catching them off-guard, but we ultimately ended up agreeing to their terms so that my mother-in-law could return to his bedside as soon as possible and he would not pass alone. Several hours later my father-in-law was transferred to the end of life unit and my mother-in-law was allowed to enter the facility. A couple of days later on the 30th of March, my father-in-law passed away in the hospital, bringing an end to his suffering.

As we drove home from the hospital my mother-in-law asked me to make the funeral arrangements. Finding a funeral home was not an easy task. I called several funeral homes but could not get straight answers about how they were handling viewings, due to regulations that had been implemented by the government prohibiting gatherings, and also due to the sheer quantity of deaths occurring in the city on a daily basis. I was fortunate to find a funeral home just outside of the city that could handle the viewing within a week, but not without restrictions on the length of the viewing, and the maximum number of people that could attend at any given time. My father-in-law’s body was ultimately cremated but viewing the cremation was not allowed due to regulations put in place by the Department of Health.

Up to this point in time, I have been spared from becoming infected with COVID-19. I have had to buy extra supplies, I have missed lectures, and I constantly worry about my health and the health of my family. I have had to deal with the nightmare that was my father-in-law’s compassionless and negligent treatment by the hospital, which I feel led to his untimely death. I feel fortunate that neither I nor any of my family members have been infected with COVID-19, but we have been impacted by it as a result of the loss of empathy and humanity that it has caused.

Covid-19: How Life has Changed

I’ve only left my house five times in the past two months. The way time is moving it feels like it’s moving fast and slow at the same time. Before we were put in quarantine I was out of my house every day of the week. This whole situation feels like it put life in slow motion sometimes and then in fast forward during others. During my free time in the week I feel like life is on fast forward. Due to the quarantine classes have been online. At first the transition to online learning was rocky in some classes, but the adjustment happened quick. Lucky for me none of my classes had zoom meetings, so I’d simply do my assignments and then get back to quarantine life. While I got assignments done time would slow down, and then once they’re complete time would speed up all over again.

Days blend together with how messed up my sleeping schedule has become. At first I’d only stay up until 2am, and wake up at a reasonable time around 10am. Then with time it just started to push back more and more. It went from 2am to 4am, and now I’m staying up until 6am on a regular basis waking up whenever. I stay up binging TV shows and movies, doing assignments, and talking to friends on the phone through Facetime. Not leaving the house, I do the same thing over and over. Thankfully I have my two best friends and my family members who bring variety into my days. Besides the different assignments that my professors give, my family and friends fill my days with joy and laughter during these difficult times.

I’ve lost a couple of friends to Covid-19 which made it difficult to focus some days on assignments, but not being alone helped me to deal with their passing. Having people surrounding me and making me laugh on a daily basis makes this quarantine bearable. Simply watching tv shows and movies to pass the time would probably drive me insane. The company is necessary. My sister Tristan has been really great during this time because she’d force the family to do activities together. One morning she told everyone to write poems about everything that’s going on since she wanted to have a “Slam Poetry Night”. That night we had a poetry reading, and we were all extra dramatic during our readings. We were all snapping instead of clapping, and really getting into character for the readings. It was a memorable night. Every now and then Tristan would come up with another idea. Those days have become special during this time where we are constantly being bombarded by sad news on tv, social media, or by family members from all over.

Quarantine has actually brought everyone closer together even though it’s meant to separate us for our safety. Within my household activities like the one I described above is bringing us closer, and cooking is as well. As a family we’ve been cooking together. One night we made personal pies and watched Coco. Another we made chopped cheeses where everyone had a different twist to theirs. Outside of my household we’ve been having zoom meetings with family and friends across the country and across the world. Yes Covid-19 has brought a lot of heartbreak with the constant loss in everyone’s lives, but it has also brought positives. I think it’s important to reflect on them from time to time even if it may be a bit difficult.

COVID-19 pandemic

The last time I sat down in a restaurant and enjoyed being outside with my friends was March 11,2020. I remember meeting up with my friend and my boyfriend to eat Thai food and have a few drinks. It was around 8 pm on a Wednesday night. Usually on a Wednesday night this restaurant is empty, but today I noticed it was full. It was packed with people, chatter could be heard all over the restaurant. My boyfriend and I decided to rent a electric scooter to get home. I enjoyed my ride home and the evening breeze. Who knew that March 11,2020 would be my last day to hang out for a while, I miss it. The following weeks classes were moved online, non essential businesses were closed, people started to wear mask and gloves outside, Lines to get in every store, Disinfectants out of stock or overpriced at some stores. I learned that i don’t like online classes i prefer in class.  It is crazy, It is as if my life is a Sci-fi movie now. 

I’m still working at a grocery store. Ill be honest and say no one is following the six feet rule. Is it because we are all wearing mask ? or is it because when we all come to work as soon as we step in we have our temperatures checked. They do tell you in the news the first sign  of COVID-19 is a fever. I believe this isn’t always the case. Several people at my job lost their sense to taste and smell. I was sick for about two weeks in March with a severe sore throat, fatigue, and loss the sense of taste and smell. Me loosing my sense of taste or smell never happened before. I started to get paranoid. Is it COVID-19 or a regular cold. I found it so odd that when i went back to work after two weeks several people couldn’t taste or smell as well.  I hope I don’t get sick again during this pandemic.  Is it a cold, COVID-19, flu, or allergies?. For now I’m just finishing up the end of the semester, enjoying going to work as it is the only other human interaction i have besides my parents, and be mindful to wash my hands and use hand sanitizer outside and to  social distance.

A Sunday Afternoon (During the COVID-19 Pandemic)

This post was submitted to The Buzz by a writer identifying themselves as Jasper. Thanks, Jasper! You can also submit your writing anonymously or non-anonymously by filling out the form at the bottom of this post.

As I entered the park silence began to descend! The swish of the cars tires on the wet highway became background noise to the tweeting and chorusing of the merry red breasted birds.
The silence deepened, closed in by the gray damp filled, misty air hanging around me. The silence wrapped me in a cocoon of tranquility as my feet followed the sandy path that lead away from the paved entrance.
The dripping branches closing in around my path showed the signs of springs renewal. Despite this cool March day, the willow was pushing forth its catkins and the cherry was in full bloom. Whilst the elm showed signs of buds the scrub oak seemed reluctant to join this emerging spring chorus.
Stepping from the woods into an open pasture I was surrounded by hundreds of Canadian geese ferociously tearing at the ground for newly sprung seeds. There journey north, far from over, they were urgent in their searching and unaware of my passing, although one small brood angrily chided the small boy who chased them round and round a tree.
Across the open vistas red clover carpeted the yet stunted grass casting a  somber background to  the colorful daffodils that punched upwards from the earth.
Despite this distraction my damp world remained tranquil and without signs of life other than the solitary policeman, a sentry to the silent playgrounds, baseball fields and tennis courts without their nets, all deserted. Forlorn yellow signs, affixed to the fences supported his mission, declaring the current crisis. NO GROUPS PLAY ALONE.
Happily alone, I continued with a wave.
March 28th, 2020


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