’91, Pharm.D. ’95
My life changed when I received a call around 1:30 a.m. on March 26. My 75-year-old father, who had not been feeling well the week prior, had been transferred to the ICU after being delivered to the emergency room the previous afternoon. I booked the first-available one-way flight home to be with my family as soon as possible. I did not know how the next 24 hours (if that) were going to unfold.
As I write this, I’m still with my family (5 weeks tomorrow). Fortunately, my father miraculously beat the COVID-19 virus, after spending his 76th birthday alone in the ICU, battling for his life. One of the most challenging and hurtful aspects of this was the inability to visit my dad, due to the COVID-19 restrictions. I resorted to recording CDs for him—containing motivating well-wishes from family and friends, some of his favorite songs, and some spiritual content. He was sedated on a ventilator for 11 days, so FaceTime or Zoom wasn’t appropriate during the acute phase of his journey.
I also happened to be unemployed, so in between phone calls with hospital staff, family, and friends, I was preparing for and participating in Zoom interviews to secure a new job. I accepted a job offer just moments before writing this. I can hardly believe it is real, given so many people around the country have lost their jobs due to this pandemic…for good. I am counting my blessings.
While my father was ill, I pivoted to the role of ensuring the emotional and spiritual well-being of my family, especially my mom. I was also the disseminator of information to the immediate family, while my sister would forward my status reports to our extended family and friends network. So, my days were somewhat regimented with phone calls, texts, and research about what could be done for my father, which was a therapeutic distraction from getting caught up in the gravity of our family’s and the world’s circumstances.
While living with my mom, it helped us to establish new daily routines. While dad was in the hospital, we prayed the rosary aloud together in the mornings, after we each did our respective workouts. I did HIIT/Tabata workouts in the basement with water jugs for weights, and my 77-year-old mom descended and climbed the stairs and walked around the house. On Sundays, after livestream Mass, our extended family would Zoom together.
It is interesting to me how tragedy brings people together. As a teenager, my grandfather died. It was the first experience I had with meeting my extended family from all over the country. Since my teens, I have lived the evolution from analog to digital, in almost all aspects of life. Technology has indeed lived up to its billing of bringing us together, but it has eerily isolated us in some ways.
The afternoon Zoom meetings with my family were a positive and therapeutic example of how technology can provide solutions for humanity, when humanity is deprived of its most valuable resource…each other. While I loathe the insidious self-absorption that technology seeds, it was what our family needed at this time. Unfortunately, it was one of the last times I saw my Uncle Steve, a former Army Ranger, who died the Saturday before Memorial Day.
I am a graduate of the URI College of Pharmacy and my sister is an RN. Neither of us are on the front lines of this pandemic, but we were both patient-engaged providers, at other points in our lives. We both have a deep appreciation and respect for those who are. We went out of our way to thank the hospital teams for what they did for my dad and our family. When grocery shopping, even if I didn’t need a prescription, I would walk over to the pharmacy, introduce myself as a pharmacist, and thank them for doing what they do, especially now.
My father is home now recovering steadily. He likened his experience to being in a time warp, where he lost about 2 weeks of his life. He is trying to process that, with the help of our family and God. I returned home on May 4. I also now have a deeper appreciation for those working in the transportation industry.
It is hard to watch your parents age, and it is even harder to leave them, when you only get an extended weekend here and there to be in their presence. Leaving after spending 5+ weeks with them was heart-wrenching. Alas, I did return home and I needed a little time to myself to downshift emotionally and mentally. I am still reacclimating to my own home and reconnecting with friends and neighbors, as best I can, under the circumstances.
I genuinely enjoyed spending time with my mother and father. I have an intensified appreciation of my family, the fragility of life, our individual and collective blessings, and the power of prayer. Our family is blessed with my father’s survival. But there will be lasting effects on all of us. Perhaps the most accurate way to describe this experience is . . . traumatic, especially for my father.
I believe the worst is behind us. The world will come together to sort this out, from political, social, financial, and research perspectives. Although cliché, we are all in this together, but I am not above holding individuals or groups accountable for the pandemic fallout. The lessons will surely be learned for the future.
I will forever remember this year and its physical, emotional, and financial impact on me personally, and worldwide. In some ways, this will be a “lost year,” with the shutdown of travel, entertainment, and nearly the entire national economy. Our lifestyle as we once knew it may be gone forever. I am curious to see how it all unfolds, and I’m prepared to adapt. Not everyone adapts well to change, but if there is ever time to start learning, it is now.
Do not sweat the small stuff and look ahead to better days. As the saying goes, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.