Pamela A. Zeiser By: Pamela A. Zeiser
Associate Professor of Political Science
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05 Oct 2020 : Pandemic Realities: Family Member in Hospital

            Recently, I experienced something many (millions of?) others must also be experiencing: a family member in the hospital. My dad did not have COVID-19 but was very much impacted by the pandemic.

            Before, I would have immediately flown to be there; I would not have thought twice about going. Now, I had to be concerned about the risks of COVID-19 while flying, for my health as well as the health of the family members I stayed with and anyone I visited upon arrival.

            Before, no one at the hospital would have asked, much less cared, if I’d traveled in the past 14 days. Ultimately, I did not travel because the hospital’s COVID-19 rules would never have let me in to see him.

            Before, many family members living in the same city as my dad would have kept him company while he was in the hospital. Now, he was allowed one single visitor for the length of stay and for only 3 hours per day. As a result, I spent many hours on the phone keeping my dad company from a distance.

            Before, a family member could have been in the room with him when the doctors visited, to get information and advocate for him. Now, doctors’ rounds were in the morning and visiting hours were from 3-6p. We sometimes listened in, but only when we happened to be on the phone with him when doctors arrived. Dad was too loopy from painkillers or distracted for that to work regularly. Confusion often reigned, though I credit the nurses with their efforts to field phone calls from family on top of everything else they had to do.

            Before, having my dad seriously ill and in the hospital for nearly two weeks would have been stressful and upsetting. Now, it was doubly or even triply so – and more frustrating as well. Any information I got was second-hand at best, and more often third- or fourth-hand. I could keep him company from afar, yes, but most of us couldn’t get in there to offer him the moral and physical support he needed. I couldn’t hold his hand, get the nurse for him when he needed something, bring him tempting foods, or any of the million things that might have made his stay easier.

            We were lucky: he did make it out of the hospital, and later I did make it across the country to see him – a meaningful (if masked) visit that I will always be grateful for.

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