Columns: COVID-19 gets real when your mother works in healthcare

Masks are useful tools to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Photo by Hayden Wiggs.

Hayden Wiggs
Oxford Stories

None of this feels real.

To think that just over a month ago, we were all leading normal lives – attending classes, going to baseball games, and hanging out with friends.

The reports were slow at first, and made it seem as if the virus was distant, affecting only those abroad. When it arrived in the United States, the news downplayed its severity, leading its readers to believe it was nothing to fear.

Even now, after all the canceling and rescheduling, warnings and stay-at-home orders, nobody is listening.

Artistic projects are great outlets to relieve stress during quarantine. Photo by Hayden Wiggs.

I will admit that, until recently, I too did not think anything of the coronavirus. Before then, it was just a nuisance, interrupting my life and putting it on pause.

It took me away from my school and my friends and was canceling everything I was excited for. I was one of the people calling it a “bad flu.” It was not until my parents asked me to move back to Georgia that I saw the real horrors of this pandemic.

My mother works as a nurse navigator for a north Georgia hospital. Every day, she is calling patients and revealing to them their coronavirus test results, comforting those who are positive and celebrating with those who are negative.

On average, she makes between 50 to 60 calls a day, seven days a week, about one third of which are positive cases. These once-healthy people who, just days ago were perfectly fine, are now on ventilators, fighting to stay alive. Seeing and understanding the real effect this is having on people and on my family has been, to say the least, illuminating.

The pandemic is about more than just statistics; it’s about people, the real people who are suffering, whose families are suffering and that is something many Americans do not understand.

My mom, Ginnie Wiggs, a healthcare worker and pandemic hero. Photo by Hayden Wiggs.

Knowing what I do now, it frustrates me when I see others posting pictures of themselves and their friends on social media. Social distancing is not something to take lightly, and those who are disobeying the orders are the ones infecting other, more susceptible people. If we are going to flatten the coronavirus curve, we must do it together — and that means staying inside.

Since coming back to Georgia two weeks ago, I have not left my house. I do my online schoolwork from my couch or out on the back patio. I do not see other people, nor do I venture out to the store.

If my parents do go out, they do so quickly and wear face masks the minute they step out the door, only taking them off when they get home. It is an unnerving and apocalyptic sight, but at least it is keeping them safe.

What worries me is that others are not doing the same. There is a reason this virus keeps spreading, due both to the unfortunate circumstances in the workplace and, disappointingly, the ignorance and utter lack of compassion for human life.

The latter occurs when people who either knowingly have the virus or have been exposed to it still go out in the world, sans face mask. They do not worry that they could infect another person. They just want to get their groceries. They ignore the social distancing orders and host house parties, or go and hang out at the lake with their friends.

This is not the answer. We will eradicate ourselves, not the virus, with our individualistic thinking, with our disregard for the rules and belief that we are invincible. My hope is that people will start to understand the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, and will stay at home. Only then, by obeying these policies and protecting ourselves and others, will we start to see the flattening of the curve and the return to normalcy.

I will not pretend that this situation has not affected my life. It has changed in ways that pale in comparison to those suffering from the virus.

I work on my online classes for six hours a day; the format took some getting used to and now, I spend my time trying to keep up with the ever-multiplying due dates. It has taken a toll on my mental health, as I know it has for many others.

In that regard, I hope everyone understands that their health is just as important as those in the hospital; no matter what, your feelings are valid. Meditation and study breaks have helped me; there are plenty to find on YouTube. Five minutes of quiet could make all the difference.

 We will never forget the coronavirus era. Right now, it feels like it will never end, that we will all be stuck in quarantine for the rest of our lives. Luckily, there are steps being taken to formulate vaccines. We will overcome this, we just have to do it together; stay safe and stay healthy, and please – stay home!

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