One year ago, I would have never thought I would be in the position I am in today.
I am currently in my final semester of college, with graduation on the horizon. More notably, I am reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the one person in my life I thought was unassailable: my father.
Last April my brother Vlad told me that our father started feeling under the weather. I called Vlad to check on our father but his tone was almost unrecognizable. He was sad but serious. He told me our father had a 101 degree Fahrenheit fever and trouble breathing; I began to worry.
It was a cold and rainy Saturday morning when Vlad decided to take our father to urgent care. His symptoms seemed to be worsening by the hour. His oxygen levels were so low that he was immediately transferred to Nyack Hospital.
My worst nightmare became reality that night.
The man I thought was unstoppable tested positive for COVID-19. He had pneumonia and was placed on a ventilator because he couldn’t breathe on his own.
I didn’t know what to do. I remember calling my sister but I couldn’t even manage to say anything. Tears were rolling down my face while doubt filled my mind.
I sat in my girlfriend’s apartment in Binghamton, hours away from my family while my father laid unconscious in a hospital bed on a ventilator.
It killed me not to be there. The uncertainty was unbearable.
Was he going to wake up?
Was he going to get better?
Was everything going to be alright?
For a few weeks, I sat around every night until 6 p.m., waiting for an update from Vlad.
“He’s still on the ventilator but his condition hasn’t changed,” he would say.
“He hasn’t woken up but his condition hasn’t gotten worse,” he would confide.
These conversations were grueling, but I had to stay optimistic. My father was still alive and fighting.
It was the toughest stretch of my life.
At the time, COVID-19 death rates were nearing a peak. Thousands were dying every day and I couldn’t help but think the worst.
“Is my dad going to make it? Will I ever talk to him again?”
I had last spoken to my father on March 28, a Saturday.
The whole experience scarred me.
But then, he woke up.
After 14 of the longest days of our lives, my father was finally taken off of the ventilator on April 15.
I was able to speak to my father for the first time after he was removed from a ventilator on April 21, my birthday.
Hearing his voice again was the greatest feeling and topped any birthday gift I could have asked for.
When I called him, I could hear the constant drum of machines beeping in the background. I knew he was struggling to get his words out due to his breathing issues. But, he still made sure to ask how I was feeling and how my day went.
That crushed me.
It’s just the type of guy my father is.
Even during one of the toughest moments of his life, his focus was still me and my emotional and physical well-being.
Knowing that one of the most important people in your life could potentially be gone in a blink of an eye is a tough pill to swallow.
I have a close relationship with my father; this was the first time in my life I couldn’t talk to him whenever I wanted.
It killed me.
But being in the position I am now in one year later is such a blessing.
I truly don’t know if I could have made it to this point — final semester of college, graduation hanging in the distance, a job in the near-future — without my father still being here with me.
My father always stressed the importance of going to school. The possibility of him not being there for my graduation scared me like nothing else. Just the thought of walking onstage, grabbing my diploma and not seeing him in the back was sickening.
I’ve learned to appreciate everyone around me and the moments I share with them.
Things can change in the blink of an eye, so we need to cherish every moment.
Keep the faith.
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