COVID is something we have heard daily for nine months, but it is something that my family has dealt with daily for the past four.
On August 24, I received a call from my mom that she and my dad were being testing for COVID-19. The following day, dad received his positive results. The next day, mom received hers.
My dad spent a total of 46 days in the hospital due to COVID. My mom spent 48. My grandpa was also admitted to the hospital due to COVID and spent 40 days fighting for his life.
Between August and October, I received five calls from doctors telling me that my family members were needing to be placed on ventilators and would likely never come off. A nurse told me the ventilator would be used to preserve their bodies until the family could make “the final decision.”
I didn’t believe any of this, until I saw it first-hand. I slept 18 nights in the hospital, holding
mom’s hand as she screamed in pain, cried in fear and fought for every breath she took.
I looked at her x-rays to see what was going on to cause her breathing issues. Her lungs were riddled with scarring; they could no longer expand to take in air. The oxygen mask she was using provided her total life support.
My mom was a 56-year-old grandma, full of life and excitement. The lady I saw in bed was not her. She was frail, scared and not ready to die.
During my stay with mom, I saw just how ravaged the hospital was becoming. I recount six occasions where I heard a patient being hooked up to a ventilator. Nurses were tasked with caring for a heavier patient load, which in turn, left patients without help.
Mom would press her call button and 20-30 minutes would pass before someone would enter the room, many times it wasn’t even her nurse.
The halls were eerily empty of hospital staff as they were all attending to other rooms. Utah Valley had 16 “COVID rooms” quarantined from the rest of the ICU but had 18 COVID patients. They had to create “overflow rooms” just to care for these extra patients. Many nurses were working five-six days straight, 12-hour shifts, just to cover the patient load. Mom’s doctor worked 19 straight days.
One morning I was pulled out of mom’s room by her doctor, who broke the news I never wanted to hear, “Your mom won’t survive this.” The words sunk deep. I became lightheaded as he flipped through her x-rays.
He asked if I would like him to tell her, to which I responded “no, I would like to.” I took on the hardest task of my life, telling my best friend she was dying. Within 20 minutes of receiving the news, I received a call from my aunt telling me that my grandpa too, was dying. I called my grandpa and placed him on speaker phone so mom and I could say our final goodbyes. Their last conversation has now been heard by millions across the nation.
“Kiddo, I am not doing good.”
“Dad, I’m not either.”
“Tray, I am dying.”
“I am too, dad”
“Then I will look for you in Heaven.”
My grandpa passed away within an hour of that phone call. My mom continued to battle for another 18 days.
The last week of mom’s life is one that I play over in my mind. Her mouth and throat were filled with sores from the air pressure of her oxygen mask. She had lost her voice, so she would write her needs on paper or use the sign language alphabet to communicate with me. Her little eyes were filled with suffering.
On October 29, just four days after celebrating her 34th anniversary, mom took her final breath. She was surrounded by family in her final moments. Nurses congregated outside her door crying, hurting right along with us. Mom’s doctor and favorite nurse stood with us, as we held her hands and talked to her about Heaven. Mom took her final breath at 8:15 p.m.
I wouldn’t wish this experience on my worst enemy. I know that sounds cliché, but no one should have to lose their loved one to something preventable. I will never have another moment with my mom, and that is something I will have to live with for the rest of my life.