When sophomore Simrin Reed’s father returns home from the hospital each day, he undergoes multiple clothing changes and showers in an isolated bathroom. He puts on a mask and stays six feet away from his family.
Front-line medical workers are risking their lives every day to care for those infected with COVID-19. As hospitals get overwhelmed—single-use masks becoming everyday use, beds overflowing with patients, medical workers dying caring for others—the effects of the pandemic hit close to home and the families of health care workers are forced to cope and adjust to their new normal.
Freshman Maya Raman’s father is an interventional cardiologist who works with COVID-19 patients. She has seen firsthand the stress the pandemic has put on his job. “He’s been working basically seven days a week for the last couple of months and he’s been working pretty long hours so I don’t see him as often as I usually do,” she said.
Reed’s parents are both ER doctors. Her father works in Prince George’s County—the hardest hit county in Maryland. He is at work every single day now, but Reed is thankful to have her dad home at all. Some medical workers with newborn babies or at-risk family members have chosen to stop staying at their homes altogether. “Some people have had to stay in rented apartments or hotels just to keep a safe distance from their families,” she said. “We’re kind of fortunate because he is still living and interacting with us at home.”
Senior Maddie Repelyea’s mother is an immunocompromised health care worker. She works at GW and is in charge of all medical residents who deal with coronavirus patients. Her mom’s vulnerability adds to Rapelyea’s concern. “I’m worried, 100%,” she said, “because if she does get the virus, her immune system really is not working for her.”
Repelyea’s family has been social distancing in their own home and doing their best to keep to their own part of the house. “We’re relatively positive as much as you can be, but it’s definitely hard,” she said.
Sophomore Alex Verbesey’s mom has been sleeping in the basement. She works as a kidney surgeon at Medstar Georgetown Hospital and has been avoiding direct contact with her family when possible.
“She’s very smart—well, she’s a doctor—so she knows what’s good and how to take care of herself,” Verbesey said. “I’m not worried because I think that she’s definitely taking the proper precautions to stay safe.”
Raman echoed a similar sentiment about trusting her father. “I’m worried, obviously, but I trust him and all of the precautions he’s taking to keep him and the whole family safe,” she said.
Verbesey thinks that those ignoring social distancing protocols “should see what hospitals are like, what patients are like,” he said. “It’s just so dumb to go out right now.”
The fact that people are leaving their homes for nonessential business only deepens Reed’s appreciation for health care workers.
“They continuously make an effort even though a lot of people don’t seem to be grateful and are being selfish and ignorant,” Reed said. “Still being so dedicated and so set on helping people and saving peoples lives, it’s really admirable of them.”
Rapelyea wants medical staff to know how thankful their family is for them. “From being the daughter of someone who is at risk, I would say, your family at the end of the day is still going to love you,” Rapelyea said. “They might not be able to give you a hug now or be a certain distance from you, but they still love you and appreciate you.”
Raman shared a similar message for health care workers. “Stay strong. You’re doing something great for the country,” she said. “I feel really proud of my dad. We are going to make it out of this.”