Frontlines

I watched my mother die of COPD.
It was a disease that made her drown.

Drowned in the fluid filling her lungs.
I watched her take her last breath.

She struggled and said it was hard.
Always smiling even when it got worse.

Said it was like running a marathon each day.
Running full speed while breathing through a straw.

The stories of COVID-19 patients are similar.
Only their experience differs from mine.

I was able to sit at Mom’s bedside for days.
Ungloved, unmasked, my cheek pressed to hers.

There are people who do not have this luxury.
They do not get to whisper to their loved ones.

Instead they watch them through a smartphone screen.
Broken-hearted knowing that they are alone.

My heart breaks all over again.
For the ones intubated and the ones who must watch.

For the nurses who experience the same type of pleas.
That I once pleaded desperately with them.

I begged them to please save her life.
Some even offered me hugs.

These families do not get their hugs.
They do not get to hold the hand of the person they love.

These nurses and doctors are people.
They go home and remember these things.

I hope that the nurses on the ICU floor never forget.
How I thanked them for trying to save Mom’s life.

That their efforts are always appreciated.
By people who me who are broken.

That paramedic who scooped Mom up from home.
May never forget the sounds of my screams.

These people are humans you know.
They did not sign up for a war battle.

Yet they go unarmed on the frontlines.
While we continue to scream from the sidelines.

I work in the steel industry.
I still go to work everyday.

There have been reports of infection close by.
I have a little girl to think of.

In my mind I imagine the nurses and doctors.
Who have their little kids to think of.

They go into the cesspool of infection.
Praying that their PPE is enough.

Self-isolating from those they love.
To make sure that they keep them protected.

Jesus Christ, what has the world come to?
When these people are dying en masse?

Because shortages and hoarding has happened.
In what was considered a highly efficient global system.

Are we so advanced and efficient, then?
Perhaps this has taught us some things.

Nursing homes wiped out in one fell swoop.
Medical community and residents alike.

If my own Dad were to catch this pandemic.
He knows he would die alone.

He knows because we had that discussion.
Over the phone where I could not hug him.

It’s been months since I have seen Dad.
One of the unlucky immunocompromised people.

So when I see people taking this lightly.
It feels like they willingly stab me in the heart.

I want so badly to give Mila a sibling.
Our plans put on hold out of caution.

Their age gap now widening out of necessity.
And my fears of being exposed while in hospital.

There is no bigger purpose to this poem.
Than for those who are struggling to know.

That we are fighting for you, medical staff.
And understand the great role you now play.

That we are thinking of you, medical staff.
And all those still going to work.

We think of those forced to quit.
Those who cannot take that risk.

I think of those families like mine.
Who are experiencing the loss of their loved one.

I hope that my words offer comfort.
In knowing that your loved ones feel you.

Walls, masks, PPE or worlds could separate you.
Despite barriers they will always feel you.

They hear you connecting through emotion and thought.
And they wish for you not to suffer the guilt.

Though their departure is not ideal.
They would never choose to leave you.

We are so sorry you even are here now.
Experiencing this worst case scenario.

It is over, no more pain.
The hardest part is over.

I think of the families like mine.
Caring for people who suffer brain trauma.

These people do not understand why things have changed.
Or why they can no longer go about their routine.

For some this may cause some more trauma.
Adding to an already impossible situation.

We try to keep them inside.
While they fight us to just do their thing.

I don’t know what we would have done.
If my grandfather were alive for this.

He was a good man and suffered an aneurysm.
And regularly became confused.

It was hard enough during the day.
Let alone doing that during pandemic.

So if that’s you, I am with you.
Through those sleepless nights due to worry.

I hope this nightmare is over soon.
For the sake of all of us.

On edge we do challenges and bake.
Trying to distract us from the insanity.

At least these things keep some of us smiling.
We know laughter is good medicine.

For some it might take a while.
To be able to smile like before.

Time and patience will see us as victors.
The wound is still fresh so it stings still.

Take a deep breath and remember the truth.
That we control what we can but there’s more.

There are things far beyond our control.
Surrender to knowing you did your best.

Given the excruciating situations experienced.
You will never be alone in the end.

People like me thinking of you constantly.
Whispering hellos from the side we don’t see.

These fragile bodies have taught me the importance.
Of knowing that it comes down to energy.

Sleep well and take care of yourself.
While we ride out this global tsunami.

Until we can celebrate outside in the sunshine together.
May the well-wishes of those rooting for you reach you.

Thank you to all the medical staff during this time. Reading your experiences has given me a new appreciation for you, and I think highly of you as it is after spending the time with Mom, Moo-Moo and Grandpa in the hospital and watching how you tirelessly give for others. Thank you.

Kaila A. Notto


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