December 17, 2020
  • Opinion

My personal COVID-19 story: Surviving the hardships

My parents, Rosa and Juan Carrasco, are among the millions of Americans to experience COVID-19
My parents, Rosa and Juan Carrasco, are among the millions of Americans to experience COVID-19|||| My parents, Rosa and Juan Carrasco, are among the millions of Americans to experience COVID-19|||| ||||
By Ivan Carrasco

Novel. Coronavirus. COVID-19. Pandemic. Shutdown. Isolation. These are terms and words we’ve all had to live in and around for the better part of a year.

COVID-19 seemed so far removed in the early days of the pandemic; that was until Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus. From that moment in early March, the novel coronavirus didn’t just knock on my door, it barged in.

You see, I was the audio engineer for the radio voice of the Utah Jazz, David Locke. When the news broke of Rudy Gobert, I panicked. I asked myself questions, “When was the last time I was in close contact with David Locke?” (who is often in close contact with the players.) “Should I be tested? Should I be worried?” With details of the virus emerging daily – even hourly – I was numb, anxious and stressed out.

Within a span of a week after the diagnosis of Rudy, the NBA shut down and I was let go of my first job in 2020.

Days later, my children were dismissed from in-person learning and assigned to remote schooling. A few days later, the company I work full-time for announced they were furloughing over 70% of the company. I was one of the unfortunate few to be furloughed. My world was shaking – literally. (Let’s not forget the earthquake many of us experienced.) Yes, COVID-19 had definitely barged into my life and sat on my couch.

During these first few gut punches to my small world, my mother had traveled to Mexico to visit my brother and the timing couldn’t have been worse. When it was time to return home, the border was partially closed to control the spread of the virus. Her return was delayed for weeks.

Upon finally returning home in Glendale, her world – and ours – was changed. Schools were closed, stay-at-home orders put in place and the news cycle was at warp speed. March was a blur.

Right after she returned from Mexico, my mother was in self-isolation as a precautionary measure. During this period of time I refrained from any family get-togethers and such. This was not easy. That’s when the stark reality set in for me, “When would this end?” Unfortunately this was the precursor to a tempestuous April and May.

April seems as if it was years ago, and in hindsight, I wish it was. During that month while I was on furlough, my anxiety shifted from being in the back of my mind to being ever so present. I felt paranoid and scared. I questioned myself as a teacher to my children during their remote learning, and worried about if and when I would receive a call to head back to work. Filing for unemployment was a reality check. This was real. The news headlines of millions of Americans being out of work was now an actuality for my family. For a time I developed a self-medicating habit, which in itself was hard to deal with.

Towards the end of April while on a call with my parents, who are legal guardians of my nieces and nephew, my mother informed me that my niece had tested positive for COVID-19. I was stunned, but in a way, not surprised. For a time, my parents ignored the pandemic and the virus. They wouldn’t wear masks and would go about their routine as much as possible, continuing regular shopping, visiting family and having sleepovers with their grandkids.

As time went by, I would call daily to make sure all was well. My mother, who is a diabetic, said “we’ll be okay, everything will be fine.” I hoped for just that.

I remember hearing the cracking in my mother’s voice over the phone one day. She said my father (the patriarch and breadwinner of the family for as long as I can remember) wasn’t feeling well and that he had a bad cough. I was stunned. I said, “Mom, Dad needs to get tested immediately.” They said I was lecturing and being paranoid in telling them what to do.

Then, my mother started feeling ill. There were the body aches – she said her bones were in pain. The sweats and fever became regular, then there was the shortness of breath, the symptom I worried about the most.

When my father’s positive COVID-19 test results arrived a few days later, I felt a shortness of breath of my own – not due to the virus, but due to the fact that both of my parents and their household were battling COVID. There was nothing I could do for my parents but offer words of support, remain positive, and as many do in uncertain times, pray.

There were a few times I visited my mother during her battle with COVID. Those visitations were unlike any others – masks on, distanced and only speaking through her bedroom window. In a way, I would speak in a raised and subdued voice simultaneously. I would ask how she felt, what she needed and how the kids were.

My family and I helped by bringing toiletries, groceries and the occasional treat to my nieces and nephews as well as my folks. I thought maybe by seeing us there for them would give my parents extra energy to fight.

As the days went by, my father started gaining strength and began doing everything he could to help his wife of over three decades fight towards recovery. My dad worried about the financial repercussions from missing weeks of work.

On a visit with my parents roughly two weeks into my mother’s battle, I could see the shine of tears dripping down the side of my mother's nose. I asked with a cracking voice, “Mom, what’s wrong?” Under duress and in between breaths, she said she was scared. I asked, “Why?” She said her chest hurt, that she couldn't breathe right. Frantic, I said, “We have to get you to a hospital!” With defiance she said, “I’m not going to the hospital to die alone.” Words that scare me to this day. She said, “If it’s my time to go, then I want to be home when it happens.”

I left it alone, almost as if I was granting her last wishes. I withheld my calls from two or three a day to one or less. I did that for selfish reasons. I didn't want to be the first to hear of any tragic news. I held it together as well as anyone could. I maybe had one too many drinks during this time, as I had no job to report to the next day. This didn’t bode well for me, as I felt guilty for not tending to my own family as best as I could.

In the early days of May, my mother began to feel slightly better. She said her night sweats were less than before and she hadn't experienced a fever in consecutive nights. The conversation was short as my mother was still feeling achy and exhausted, and couldn’t stand, sit or talk for a prolonged period of time. I told her to rest and that I would check on her the following day.

I felt some relief. Maybe there was a light at the end of this tunnel. A light of life.

As the days went by, our calls became longer and longer. The sound of her voice improved. Especially the day when she told me that my Dad was fully recovered and was thinking about going to work the following week. After weeks of being mostly in her room, bedridden, even basic household chores were taxing. She said she must have washed and wiped down everything in her room over a dozen times. She didn’t want any remnants of the virus lingering on her nightstand.

By June, my mom and dad and niece had all recovered, although my mother still feels lingering effects of the virus. Still, we’re grateful and blessed that my mother was strong enough to fight COVID-19 and beat it. She and/or my father could have added more deaths to the statistics of the over 1.5 million deaths so far around the world. We’re glad they didn’t.

I’m not perfect; I, like many, have gotten complacent and fallen in the trap that they call “pandemic fatigue.” I have attended family gatherings here and there. In the back of my mind, I ask, “Should I be at this BBQ? Should I have let my nieces or nephews sleep over?” That’s when the guilt sets in. It’s extremely difficult to remain home for weeks on end when you’re used to spending the summer and fall at family BBQs, celebrating birthdays, having weekend breakfasts and such.

What many of us need to realize is that if we continue avoiding and dismissing the proper precautions, there’s always that chance that instead of having cause to celebrate, we’ll be gathering to pay our respects, or in a sense, asking for forgiveness to a loved one who has passed away from this virus.

What I don’t forget is that a virus that has killed over a quarter million Americans is not political. This virus doesn’t care if you lean left or right. It doesn’t care if you're young or old. The Coronavirus. COVID-19. This novel virus is real. That is certain. It almost killed my parents.

Ivan Carrasco grew up in Glendale and attended school at Parkview, Glendale and East. He considers himself a family man with an interest in photography and a love of the West Side.