Students with family in medical field emotionally impacted by coronavirus crisis

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Candice Anvari staff writer

His mom leaves the house every day at around 7 a.m., but junior Koa Voca was never scared to see his mom go off to work until the coronavirus spread in the U.S. His mom assures him that she’ll take every possible measure to stay safe while working in the hospital, but the lingering fear does not part from Voca. While in quarantine, students who have parents or relatives in the medical field are emotionally affected by their demanding jobs.

According to a Highlights poll of 103 students, 56% of the students who responded have parents or relatives in the medical field. Sixty percent of the students are worried for the health of their kin, while 44% of the students are proud of the work their family is doing for the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Voca’s mother is a nurse at Cedars Sinai. She handles patients who show symptoms of the virus, thereby increasing Voca’s stress.

“Her job is really unpredictable because she never knows what patient she’s going to have to treat, so I’m worried for her a lot of the time,” Voca said. “She tells me she’s not stressed about her job, but I can tell that she’s worried she might bring the virus home and pass it on to me. I’m young so I think I’d bounce back from it quicker, but I don’t want my mom’s health to be in jeopardy.” 

After a long day at work, Voca’s mother tells him about “interesting patients” she assisted. He used to enjoy hearing about her hospital life, but now the stories she shares with him worry him even further. 

“She’s told me some crazy stories these past few weeks,” Voca said. “She told me that some people come in looking so sick, but don’t test positive. Then, there’s some people that look perfectly fine, but they do test positive. I think it’s hard for her not knowing who could potentially be harmful to her health.” 

Cecilia Voca teared up when she heard about her son’s concerns. She knows he’s worried, but she needs to go to work in order to support her family. 

“I’m a single mother, so Koa has always tried to support and help me in every way possible,” Cecilia Voca said. “I know it’s hard for him to see me go to work while there’s a risk of  me getting sick; but if I don’t go to work, I can’t provide for my family.”  

Although most doctors, pharmacists and nurses, like Voca’s mother, are on the front lines, there are still doctors who are needed for other areas of care. Senior Gabriella Jacobson’s uncle is a radiologist at Cedars Sinai. He is still at risk of coming in contact with the virus, even though he is not administering the physical COVID-19 test. 

Jacobson believes that her uncle is doing the best he can to service the people who come to him for assistance. She feels pride in knowing that he’s not “calling in sick,” even when he could be exposed to the virus in the hospital. 

“Much of his job right now is trying to calm people down in the hospital and trying to take care of them without getting sick and preventing others from getting sick,” Jacobson said. “I’m just nervous about him getting sick, but I’m also really proud that he’s able to work and help as many people as possible” 

Similar to Jacobson, the feeling of pride is evident in Voca. He doesn’t think he has half the “bravery” his mother has. 

“If someone asked me to jump into a battlefield, which in this case is the hospital, I’d straight up laugh in their face,” Voca said. “My mom’s strength is impressive. She’s really pulling through to support our family, and I’m always going to appreciate what she does for me and my sister in the darkest of times.” 

Voca’s mother believes her son puts her “on a pedestal” in his mind. 

“Koa thinks I can do it all. He’s never doubted me for a second.” Cecilia Voca said. “When I help other families during this difficult time, it makes me feel great knowing that my service is helping them. I would do all of this again in a heartbeat.” 

Voca’s mother is among the many people who are on the front lines. Sophomore Paige Garza’s sister Becca Garza is a third-year resident at UCLA Hospital. Garza cannot see her sister because her sister could be a potential risk to her entire family.  

“I miss Becca so much. I haven’t seen her in about a month and a half because, as a part of her residency, she deals with coronavirus patients,” Paige Garza said. “It just makes me so sad to think about how hard she works every day, and then she has to go home to her empty house. I just really want to be there for her right now.” 

The coronavirus made Becca Garza’s residency “stressful,” and she constantly faces “unexpected” challenges.

“I normally go to the hospital at about 6 a.m. so I can prepare for my rounds. It shocks me to see how busy we already are at that hour,” Becca Garza said. “There’s a constant flow of patients moving in and out of the hospital, and just when we think we’ve gotten through the majority, more people flood in to get tested and checked.” 

Becca Garza misses her family and she’s constantly thinking about how they’re doing while she’s at work. 

“I know my hospital life is worrying them. I call them around three times a day, but I can’t stop thinking about how my parents and siblings are holding up. I miss them so much and I really wish I could see them, but I know it’s better to distance myself from them so they stay protected from this virus. 

Voca and Jacobson believe that students need to be more aware of their actions during this time because they could harm themselves and the community by recklessly avoiding quarantine guidelines. 

“I think everyone should be staying inside and staying safe,” Jacobson said. “I see so many teenagers gathering as if everything is perfectly fine, like they’re not doing any harm. I understand that they want to be with their friends, but I feel like it’s disrespectful for them to act like it’s no big deal and potentially spread the virus to other people.”

Although some teenagers haven’t been following quarantine protocol, junior Jackie Bakshian noticed how some students showed their gratitude to healthcare workers by sharing pictures of those who are on the front lines and sending positive messages to the medical community. 

“I’ve always felt that doctors are integral to our society, and I’m glad that they are finally getting the recognition they deserve,” Bakshian said. 

Voca “strongly” believes that students need to understand when to be responsible about this situation because he wants his mom to stay safe.  

“It makes me happy when my mom tells me people bought chocolates for her service and how she’s constantly getting thanked because I honestly believe she deserves that,” Voca said. “I just feel really frustrated when I know how hard my mom is working for my family, and then I see people on social media out and about as if nothing’s changed. They don’t understand that they’re putting so many people at risk. People who are nurses, like my mom.” 

 

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