• Harriette Chan

Nonfiction Essay: Not a Hero


Photo Source: Pexels

Let's get one thing straight; my mom is not a hero. My mom got addicted to a Netflix series just because there are pretty Asian men in historical costumes in it. My mom told me to listen to a cool, new song she found and then played “Wonderwall”. This is the woman who got kicked out of a PetSmart because she told an employee that we wanted fish for “an experiment” (to be fair, I did want to observe them for a science fair but that was a poor choice of words). She is also the only thing that kept me from falling apart most days, both before and during quarantine. She’s not a hero, but she is a nurse.

My mom works on the floor of her hospital dedicated to treating Covid-19 patients. She says that ever since the outbreak, they’ve been taking new measures to protect themselves. All the nurses on her floor wear PPEs, or personal protective equipment. This includes a mask, face shield, hair bouffant, and precaution gown. A few weeks ago she sent me a picture of her and her coworkers doing the Charlie’s Angels pose in their PPEs.

I asked her if the hospital had enough supplies, and she sighed and said that the hospital was being stingy. The one-use masks and protective equipment they used now had to last each nurse for two weeks. She tells me they’re fine for now though.

A few weeks ago, before my mom went to work, she sat my sister and me down and told us to prepare for the likely possibility that the family catches Covid. Of course, this is not what we wanted to hear. My sister was not happy that she couldn’t spend time with her boyfriend anymore, but she did eventually accept it. When my mom said that we had to be more careful I straight up asked her, “Are you gonna get corona and die?”

My sister yelled at me for being insensitive; how was she supposed to answer that, anyways? I know that logically that was a dumb thing to say, but I just could not handle the elephant in the room anymore. Of course I’ve thought about what would happen if my mom got sick. While Covid-19 is mostly dangerous for elderly people, nobody is immune. Plus, this new emphasis on nurses being heroes makes me worry for my mom. In a way calling them heroes seems to justify the fact that they are being put in unnecessary danger due to a lack of medical equipment.

Before any of this even happened, my mom had already prepared us on what we had to do in case something happened to her. I’ve known which folder in the house had the files we needed to claim her life insurance since I was a kid. But this, along with the anxieties of a pandemic happening around us was just too much. Maybe I was overreacting but everything has changed since the pandemic started. Both my sister and I had to leave college and move back home. Everything I was used to and preparing for (hanging out with friends, applying for internships, getting a summer job) came to a screeching halt. The life I had become so accustomed to was slipping between my fingers. I realize that this is something that everyone is going through, but In the process of losing so much of normal life I realized that my mom is the one thing I could not live without.

After my outburst, she whispered to me that she would be fine and not to worry. I try to tamp down my anxieties; it would only make it harder for everyone if I constantly worried. But the thought doesn’t go away.

My mom has picked up more hours because the need for nurses went up. She told me that at her hospital the nurse to patient ratio is 1 to 3 because it takes a lot of time to get in and out of the protective gear. She also informs my sister and I that we’re going to have to take care of the house for a while, since she’ll be working more. She said, “Outside of work you can’t do anything you just want to sleep, my other nurses work 13 days in a row, 16 hour shifts. You’re stressed, you’re tired, your back hurts”.

Of course we’ve seen less of her since she’s been working more, but just that has made me realize how much I need her. The house is lonely and somber without her walking around the house, our yapping dog constantly at her heels. When I do get to talk to her it’s a bright spot in my day, like things are normal again.Getting through the day without my support system hasn’t been easy, but the least I can do is manage for the sake of everyone else.

When I tell my friends that my mom is a nurse, they usually tell me to thank her for her service. I do relay the message, but I can’t do it seriously.

“Hey mom did you hear, you’re a hero now?”, I said.

“Oh, a hero?”, she said, laughing.

I did ask her how she actually felt about nurses being called heroes now and she said, “Truthfully I don’t feel like a hero. I’m just doing my job”.

She told me this morning that one of her coworkers tested positive for Covid19.

“We’re fighting a different battle now.”

You may be wondering how you personally can make my mom’s job easier. Well straight from her mouth the three things you need to do are social distance, wear a mask, and wash your hands. My mom isn’t a hero, but we desperately need her. And so do you. Don’t make her job harder.