As I started my journey of Graduate School in the summer of 2020, Covid-19 was just beginning to wreak havoc on our country. As a firefighter, an EMS educator, and a long time healthcare worker in the Emergency Medical Services field, I admittedly was skeptical about the seriousness of this disease and the impact that it would have on my community and this nation. We have seen over the years many diseases come around with much the same warnings in advance that did little to no damage to the nation and its people. As I got on the rig every day, I along with my colleagues treated it like any other disease and went along treating patients and doing what we do every day. Were we ever wrong in our arrogance?
As numbers continued to climb, our workers continued to be exhausted, working long hours while we worked overtime, exhausted all of our personal protective equipment and one by one, we too got sick from this very dangerous virus. One of my own contracted the virus, became so sick he fought for his life in the hospital for three months, forty-five days of which he was on a ventilator.
As workers began to become ill and forced to quarantine, this made for a managerial nightmare. Firefighters, forced to pull forty-eight hour shifts in order to keep the stations staffed, experienced many sleepless nights as our call volume went up by thirty percent. My firefighters worked tirelessly through all of this and service to our community never faltered. Masks, quarantines, and online schooling for their children have inconvenienced many people during the past year. Some have had to change the way that they do business and adapt to the current state of existence to which we live. I have seen all too frequently in the past year, the mental anguish that being on the front line of this has on the workers. Mental issues are rampant in doctors, nurses, and frontline EMS workers, and people whom I have, throughout my career, seen smiling, joking, and laughing do not do that quite as often anymore.
On January 4th, the reality really became clear. I was diagnosed myself with Covid-19 and pulled out of work to quarantine. Little did I know that after receiving that horrible news, that it would be a blessing in disguise. Two days later my father tested positive, we do not know where he contracted the virus, because he quarantined with my mother who had a surgical procedure done the week prior and had not had contact with anyone. With my mother still recovering from surgery, I was able to spend time with my dad, and take care of him as the rest of my family, due to his illness were forced to stay away. In the early morning of January 10th my father lost his life to the effects of Covid-19. When this hits your immediate family, close friend, or co-worker it becomes too real, the consequences are unforgiving.
I am not writing this for pity, for condolences, or for myself. I decided to write this for strength for others. You are only limited in this life by yourself and what you can push through in the face of adversity. I am a firefighter, an EMT, a father, and a full time student here at Clemson, and through all of this I come out of this determined, focused on the future. In this world filled with sickness and hate, choose to love, choose to be kind to each other, and make sure that the people that you care about are safe and that they know that you love them.