My name is Ariadna, but many know me as “Abby”. I am an undocumented first-generation student and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient. I currently work as a Certified Medical Assistant. As a Medical Assistant you are the support for the doctor, you room patients, take their vitals(blood pressure, height, weight), you take calls and speak with the patient if needed. Today I will tell you my journey during the current pandemic. We have all seen the news about COVID-19 (corona virus) and some of us have experienced it first-hand.
Being in the healthcare industry, we are prepared psychologically for the worst and put our patients first. The pandemic inevitably took a toll on my life. At the onset of the pandemic, I was the head of my household, as well as juggling working full time and being a full time student. I was also still working with the immigrant community and specifically HEFAS (Higher Education For AB540 Students) at De Anza College and trying my best to stay calm and take things as they came. Both my parents work in the food industry where they were asked to stay at home to shelter in place until the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, provided guidelines for them to go back to work. During this time because of my role as a medical assistant I was the only one in my family working. I have a younger brother who is a middle schooler and this drastic change took a toll on him as well. During the beginning of the pandemic, my mom went into a downward spiral where she became depressed and anxious. All of us were but given the media and how it conveyed this pandemic, we were all in fear on a daily basis. As the days passed, I would come back from work, spray myself down with Lysol, spray down my work shoes, leave them outside, and go straight to the bathroom to shower. During this time my mom was very irritable, my dad would joke around and my brother was desperate to go out and play. This helped with my mom’s sanity and eased some of the tension there was in my household.
As this pandemic started to progress, I stopped seeing my grandma since she is at a higher risk of developing complications from COVID. This also impacted my family because we have always been close to my mom’s side. During this time we weren’t able to interact with them as before. As we were social distancing and sheltering in place, I was starting to get used to this new normal of my routine. When I thought that the stress was dialing down, I was wrong.
On July 22, I started to feel sick. During the last part of my shift I was having some body aches but did not think much of it. Later when I was on my way back home I started to develop extreme body aches, a slight fever of 99.0, and chills running down my body. I was trying to stay calm. Once I got home, I sat down, ate and spoke with my parents about what to do. I was able to make a walk-in appointment via video with a health care provider to check-in about my symptoms. From then on I decided to quarantine myself. I was super scared because just the week before, my mom had minor surgery and I was still the only one working. I followed protocol: I made my appointment and got tested for COVID. Later on I was told that my test came back positive.
I was shocked. I cried. I thought I was going to die and I felt that my anxiety itself was taking the best of me. During this time, I was also worried about how I was going to be able to provide for my parents and for my younger brother. I also worried about keeping them safe. I had paid-time off (PTO) hours saved up which were critical during this time. I was overwhelmed with the amount of phone calls, interviews, and checking in that was going on from work and from the county. I had to navigate my way to finding free clinics for COVID testing for all of my family members to get theirs done by the next couple of days.
Thankfully my symptoms only lasted one day. The next day I was completely fine. I had to notify my workplace and thankfully was able to get the resources I needed to stay home. I was also able to benefit from free grocery/food services to be brought to my home while everyone in the household quarantined. But being quarantined for 2 weeks, I was exhausted mentally and emotionally. I did not want anybody to know that I had Covid—not my immediate family, however due to me living in the same household as my parents and younger brother we all had to be quarantined and have them get tested. I felt ashamed. I am a firm believer that it is there but the more we fear this virus the more it deteriorates our body or immune system. So, I asked myself and tormented myself with why, how, who, and where I got it? I wanted to be in control of my diagnosis and in a way I felt that if I had this in control then I had the power to take on this virus. It sounds a little funny and weird, but it gave me a sense of ease because I knew that if I started to talk about it and asked questions I would just keep on thinking about it. Even after this, I was still not able to wrap my mind around it. I felt completely fine despite that one day. I wanted answers, but I knew that it was complicated and hard to track the answers to all these questions. I felt alone and knew that if I kept it up I was only going to get worse.
We as humans naturally need that physical contact and not having that really hurt me. I felt lonely. I cried almost every day during self-quarantine and stopped eating. I would sleep in hopes that the time went by faster. It then clicked—I told myself to snap out of it and if I did not, the only person I was hurting was myself. So I cried more. Then I decided to make my time worth it. I decided to practice some self-care. I went online to look up yoga videos and re-learned how to listen to my body and let it rest. This also helped me take a step back and analyze the good and the bad but focusing on the good of why this happened to me. I came to realize that everything happens for a reason, whether we see it in the moment or not. I realized that it was my call to relax and recenter my needs and priorities.
Overall this pandemic has taken lives, teared families apart, and has definitely tested my family and strength. I do not regret being a medical assistant nor am I proud of going through what I went through but I am proud of being able to manage and now reflect on how strong and resilient I am. For those who think you may not make it—you will, trust in yourself and your inner power, as well as reach out to those around you for support.
Abby: The daughter of immigrants, first generation college student and eldest daughter, Abby has always fought for what is right and for her family to be safe. She is resilient and does not give up—always finding a way to overcome any obstacle.
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A beautiful reflection on a difficult and draining experience. Thank you, Ariadna, for sharing your story, and I’m glad you were able to take some positive from this experience. Health and wellness to you and your family