From the Frontlines: Confronting Fear
Fear. It’s an unwelcomed guest that has taken residence in my life. As a health care provider, I’m fearful for my patients and for the sustainability of the health care system across the country. I’m fearful for my family and friends who also work in health care and are fighting this same battle daily, some at much greater risk than myself. As a family member, I’m fearful that I may be the vector that brings this virus to those I love. The potential consequences of that very real possibility keep me up at night.
Like most parents, my 8-year-old son is the center of my world. My favorite part of the day has always been coming home to him. Since he was little, whenever I got home from work, he would drop everything and run to give me the biggest, best hug - the throw your whole body into it and squeeze tight kind of hug. He still did this every day, until last week. That is when I had to stop him as he approached me and tell him we couldn’t do that anymore. In that moment, my heart broke a little. Now when I get home, I must go through a multi-step ritual of sanitizing my vehicle, changing in the garage and showering before I can let anyone near, and still I worry that it may not be enough. I have this irrational mom fear, that when this is all done, when it’s ok for him to again run up to me as soon as I walk in the door, that he won’t. I’ve had eight years of it, I’m a lucky woman I know. But kids don’t keep and what if it’s one of those things that he all of a sudden outgrows. I hate COVID-19 for taking the most comforting part of my day from me, particularly on these days when I need it most.
As a pediatric provider, I worry about the short and long-term effects on our children. Will they suffer emotional trauma? Will their educational trajectory be affected? If their parents lose their jobs, will they go to bed hungry? Will the stress of all that’s going on worsen tension in homes where children are abused? As I talk to my patients’ parents, I encourage them to turn the news off and focus on family. To try and keep the home as a place of safety and comfort, particularly as we all forge through this new challenge of in-home schooling. On that note, can I just say thank you to all of the teachers!
As a person with asthma, I worry about what happens if I contract COVID-19. Most likely, I would do ok. Many people do. But did you read the article about the young man who passed away? I did. He was 34. According to the article, he had asthma but was otherwise healthy. I’m in health care, I know they don’t publish all the details and there could be much more to the story. But the very human side of me says “I’m 35 and I have asthma.” The mind can take you to all kinds of scary places.
Even with the fear and worry that rests heavily on me daily, I stand amazed by the overwhelming sense of humanity that is currently on display throughout America. There are neighbors stepping up to help neighbors. Stores devoting special hours to the elderly and those with a weakened immune system, to ensure they can get what they need in the safest way possible. Companies big and small manufacturing items they’ve never manufactured before to try to help meet a need. Being a part of thousands of health care professionals who are stepping up to the plate, putting our heads together and trying to find the best solutions to the problems that are changing daily. The unsung heroes in the grocery stores, the truck drivers, those who deliver much-needed packages to our doors. The teachers who are embracing this new way of learning, trying to give students a sense of normalcy when the world around them is in turmoil. It is this beautiful outpouring of love and support that gives me some small sense of peace.
For now, stay home, visit with family and friends virtually. Wash your hands frequently and do your best to stay healthy and safe. When the dust settles, we will inevitably come out of this pandemic changed. I believe we will come out stronger and more resilient, better prepared to face future challenges. Personally, I hope I come out to my little boy running up to give me the biggest hug ever. I know I’ll need it.
Traci Gonzales is a pediatric nurse practitioner with Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas. Along with her expertise in pediatric asthma, Gonzales has additional expertise in the health effects of air pollution, harms of tobacco use, youth smoking rates, secondhand smoke exposure, general asthma, children's lung health, exercise and lung disease, nutrition and lung health, bronchiectasis and primary ciliary dyskinesia. Read More.
Blog last updated: May 22, 2020