Nancy Figueroa is a writer of non-fiction and fiction, living in Toronto, Ontario.
When I ask my sons about work, I no longer want to hear their answers. John and Mike are General Internal Medicine specialists. Both regularly treat patients with COVID-19. I worry for my sons. But this is nothing new. I’ve been waltzing with worry for decades.
In the early days of the pandemic, I agonized about their dad too. Richard, a physician, is 72 but with a dedication to the profession that belies his age. When I first heard whispers about the virus in Canada, I tormented myself thinking: Oh no, what if Richard, John and Mike all catch COVID from their patients?
Sometimes I jostle awake in the middle of the night, haunted by stories of physicians who’ve died of COVID-19. I have to remind myself to breathe, just breathe. I was relieved when Richard’s hospital announced no one over seventy could work on the front-line. Richard was disheartened and dismayed.
Me? I was ecstatic, although I tried to hide this from him. He found other medical work, putting his degree in public health and epidemiology to good work with Toronto Public Health on its COVID-19 response. What a relief that one of my three men of medicine was safe, but what about the other two?
John, 36, moved to Calgary in February 2020. We’d planned to visit each other in June, October and December. COVID-19 laughed at our plans as it did to everyone else.
My toughest moments were last fall when John – working at Foothills Medical Centre, where the virus was raging – had to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms. One of John’s patients, not suspected of having COVID-19, tested positive. I breathed properly only when John’s test result was negative. Still, I wonder when I will see him again. I miss my first-born child.
Mike, 34, is on staff at Mount Sinai Hospital and lives near us in Toronto, but feels thousands of miles away. We’ve seen him only four times since COVID-19 struck; each time we wear masks and socially distance outside. Last July he paid me a short birthday visit but there were no hugs, no dinner and no drinks. I made do with a short walk, both of us masked and walking well apart from each other. It was strange, yet I was thankful to see his face… if only from the eyes up.
I once broke protocol with Mike. On a gorgeous November day on the shores of Lake Ontario, he proposed to his girlfriend, a veterinarian. When they stopped by our backyard – grinning behind their masks and holding up a newly ringed finger – I couldn’t help myself. I ran and gave him a big squishy nine-months-in-the-making hug. I felt so guilty.
Knowing vaccines are available helps to ease my worries (a touch). Still, the end of this pandemic is nowhere in sight. Families of doctors everywhere hope the world follows public health guidelines. We need to see our sons and daughters. We need to hug them. The dance of worried motherhood continues.
Hi Nancy…long time
I loved so full of love and concern for your beautiful family.
They are all true hero’s through these uncertain times.
Thanks so much Joanne! I have often thought of you and your family, particularly Jake. I hope all of you are well in these difficult times.
Thank you for writing and sharing this Mrs. Fralick. I always enjoy your writing.
Thanks for your nice comment, Graham. Stay healthy!
I am grateful for the window into the home, and families of those working in hospitals during this worrisome time. Thank you Nancy for giving us a glimpse.
My pleasure. Stay well.
A great article Nancy, very heart warming.
Thanks for your kind comment!
Thank you Nancy, for beautifully demonstrating the dedication and human-ness of our generous medical professionals and their loved ones.
Thanks Alex. Lovely to hear from you.
Nancy illustrates how the pandemic has disrupted the connection of being together as a family. Thank you for writing this powerful story!
Nancy reminds us how this pandemic changes the whole family dynamic. How it can be so hard to see one another, to be together and to feel really and truly connected. Thank you.
John Van Aerde, MD, PhD
I feel your pain, Nancy. While I am a little worried, I am also proud that our three children serve at the front line, one ER doc, one rural GP/ER and our youngest in an ICU (one of the busier ones in Canada). Like Richard, I too wanted to work against COVID-19, but I too am no longer allowed to help, even in vaccination clinics (as if a neonatologist who placed lines in infants as small as 1/2 kg could not hit an adult deltoid muscle!). I am grateful for all the hard work and unconditional service so many in Canada are giving to our communities. Let’s hang in there, Nancy…
Thanks for your comment, John. You should be most proud of your three children.