Living with front line heroes

Adam Perez, R2 Sports Editor

My dad is a trauma critical care surgeon and director of the Surgical Intensive Care unit in Hackensack, NJ. He takes care of the most critically ill patients in the hospital who suffer from gunshot wounds, stabbings, motor vehicle accidents, emergency surgeries, major falls and various other horrific accidents. His team covers the hospital 24 hours every day and they get called at all hours of the night to cover emergencies. They have seen everything and any disaster you could think of. My dad is used to chaos but always manages to remain calm. That is, until COVID-19 hit his hospital. 

Shortly after COVID-19 was in New Jersey, there were too many patients in the Medical ICU for their attendings to cover. My dad and his team opened up several ICUs to help. As a result, he is currently serving as the head attending of the medical ICU, managing the most critically ill COVID-19 patients, while also covering any traumas that come to the hospital. His job is dangerous, scary and exhausting physically, emotionally and mentally. His hospital has turned into a war zone. My dad has never seen this many sick patients and the number of patients keeps growing. He has been working every day with some 24-hour shifts and no days off. 

It is frightening for me to think about what my dad does while he is at work because I’m aware that he is risking his life. He has assured me that he is taking all of the proper precautions and will not enter a patient’s room unless he is safely protected. 

However, my dad is not the only family member of mine fighting COVID-19 as a medical professional. My uncle is an anesthesiologist in New York City, which is the epicenter of the disease. His job consists of intubating close to 20 patients per day in the emergency room. He has shared with me pictures of the protective gear that he must wear for each intubation, which consists of a full-body gown and a special intubation helmet, also known as a powered air-purifying respirator, to protect himself from the possibility of being exposed. It wasn’t until he shared this picture with me did I truly grasp the gravity of it all.

Having multiple family members fighting the coronavirus has had a major impact on me. This situation definitely has me more worried for the safety of my family members every time they leave for work.  

My dad’s demanding schedule is causing me to lose time with him the year before I leave for college, while my friends are gaining this time with their family because of the work-from-home order. My college selection, graduation, prom and other senior moments don’t seem to mean as much to me when all I think about is my dad and uncle’s safety. 

Part of what I will remember from these months is the bravery of my dad and uncle, their hope in treating patients and the compassion they show patients who must die alone. It’s a lot for a senior in high school to take in.