Ode to frontline healthcare workers

Faith McLean, Associate Arcade Editor

Hopes were high as I anxiously awaited my results at Urgent Care. But as my COVID-19 test came back positive, my holiday spirit dissipated. 

No singing Christmas carols with my friends while driving around looking at Christmas lights. No sipping on eggnog with my aunt at the annual family holiday party. No eating my uncle’s gumbo. No watching Christmas movies with my parents on Christmas Eve. My holidays were gone.

A two-year feat gone, and all my bragging rights with it. I had COVID-19 just a week shy of Christmas. I was going to be quarantined in my apartment alone until Christmas Eve. 

This wasn’t the Hallmark plotline I was hoping for. It felt more like something from a Netflix knock-off of “Contagion.” Either way, I’m still missing my Jude Law love interest.

As “Jingle Bell Rock” rang through the room, I read the pamphlet my nurse had handed me explaining the IV treatment process if my symptoms began to worsen. I was also trying to memorize her directions on how to take the back exit to avoid contact. I thought it would be fine, what’s the worst that could happen?

I assumed I would experience an annoying runny nose or headache. I prepared myself for the reality that COVID-19 was going to make finishing the semester much more challenging. But I naively thought my university-assigned case manager would help.

I was misinformed, unprepared and beyond wrong. I was Tinder-certified ghosted by my case manager after I asked about alternative housing options since my roommate had not tested positive. I was stressed over finals, but I was even more stressed about isolation logistics.

On day two of my quarantine, my symptoms were eerily reminiscent of the flu which I’d only had twice in my life. My body was shivering despite my high fever. My chest felt heavier than the stack of books staring at me from my desk. In spite of having slept most of the day, I was exhausted. On night three, I woke up feeling my stomach turn in on itself. Panicking, I called my parents and desperately asked them to help me schedule an appointment at Ochsner. 

That’s the last thing I clearly remember. Everything after that was a blur.

After I got off the phone that morning, I passed out in my room. I woke up dizzy, blinded by my phone screen. I could make out 15 missed calls from my mother and too many unread texts. I woke up with 15 minutes to get myself to the hospital. As I crawled out of bed, there was a pounding at the door. Maybe my downstairs neighbors were hanging a painting or doing some Thursday morning remodeling. But then I made out, “TUPD!” 

It was terrifying to have my roommate open the front door to me slouched over the steps and looking up at the face of a very concerned police officer. He was accompanied by a family friend who was sent to check on me. There he was: a 70-year-old married man pounding on a college girl’s door as the cops show up.

From there, I played real-life Mario Kart as I attempted to drive myself to the hospital. Once I arrived, I stopped in the middle of the road. Drivers were honking and flipping me off, but I was lost. Frantically, I called my mother who got a nurse on the line. She seemed like she had experience giving directions to almost-incapacitated people. A makeshift maze directed by plain white copy paper with arrows led me landing-strip-style to a room filled with uncomfortable armchairs and beeping monitors. 

Nurses dressed in full-length gowns and shields motioned for me to sit in the nearest chair. As they took my vitals, they must have noticed how pale I was and began swarming me with questions: Have you eaten today? Have you had an IV before? 

Basking in comforting words from the nurses and sipping on my juice box, I lifted my head to make eye contact. I took a weak breath and exhaled a thank you. 

Thank you for squeezing me in for an appointment so last minute. Thank you for holding my hand and not being afraid to be near me like everyone else. Thank you for giving me relief from the suffocation I had been feeling. Thank you for being there when my parents could not be and when my university had failed me. Thank you for doing what you do for people you don’t know and for people who may not deserve your kindness. Thank you for teaching me selflessness, again.

Thank you for giving me faith in humanity this new year.