By Sherry Sokolowski
Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has conquered every aspect of our lives. It has brought about all sorts of experiences that no one could have ever imagined.
Not only were my family and I trying to adjust to this new COVID-19 world, but we were also faced with our grandfather being trapped in hospitals with extreme medical issues for three months amidst a blazing pandemic. Normally, it would be worrisome to have a grandparent in the hospital no matter the case. With COVID-19, it was downright awful – now, my grandfather was in a hotspot for the virus and could potentially contract it at any point.
Over the past year, my grandfather has endured all sorts of things. He is easily the most resilient and determined person I know. He had his big toe amputated and then got a blood infection that spread throughout his body. He was then faced with a life or death situation – either he got his leg amputated or the infection would take its toll. After his amputation, he had major heart issues, got pneumonia and another blood infection, lost 60 pounds, and spent time at three different hospitals. Every single time we thought he was better, something else would come up. Between everything, he ended up staying in the hospital for three whole months.
During all of that, unbeknownst to us, at one point he was in the ICU. We had no idea that his health was that critical until my grandmother received a bill that stated he was in intensive care. This reinstated the fact that we had no communication with the medical staff and there was a lack of transparency throughout the duration of his time in the hospital. But we couldn’t blame them, for they were so incredibly busy being heroes and saving lives there was no time for them to keep up with communication.
Because I could work from home now and do school virtually, I could help my family out and take care of my grandparents. I was constantly going back and forth between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, trying to be of assistance to my family in both cities. It was a lot at once – trying to take care of my siblings and cousins, supporting my family in any way I could, all while working, being a student and living through a pandemic! My family and I could never plan, every day brought a new challenge or shift when it came to my grandfather.
The three months that my grandfather spent in the hospitals were torturous for him. Because of the pandemic, no one was able to visit him. The only way we could get in contact with him was via phone or a Zoom call, which wasn’t the same. He was entirely isolated from everyone for such a long time and as a result, his mental state has declined. It’s heartbreaking to think that he was going through so many traumatic things alone. Even now, we are very limited as to when we get to see him. He is temporarily living at an assisted living facility, and even though many members of my family have received the vaccine, they are unable to visit him. He has a fear that life won’t go back to normal anytime soon. While I can understand where he’s coming from, I recognize that things are getting slightly better. Now that it’s slightly warmer outside, I can go visit him as long as we remain outside, wearing our masks, which is comforting to both of us.
Above all, this pandemic has brought a lot of lessons to light. It has shown me the importance of family and coming together during difficult times. It’s taught me to be flexible and patient and directly shown me how valuable life is. It has shown a spotlight on the importance of medical staff and how vital they were over the past year. Without their sheer dedication, hard work, and passion, who knows what could have happened. We can only hope that we are one step closer to being rid of this pandemic.