Worry travels across the world when your mom is an OFW

Worry travels across the world when your mom is an OFW

It’s a struggle of being away from family in a time of great risk and hardship.

Art by Neal P. Corpus

 

My mom is a nurse in New York City. 

I used to beam with pride and joy when I say that. After all, working in the Big Apple is not for the faint-hearted, and if you make it there, it speaks volumes about your capacity as a nurse.

My mother has been working in New York for almost a decade. She is now a senior nurse, but it was an uphill battle for her to get there. She had to face discrimination and daily stress from the grueling tasks. But my mom is tough. She has the guts and faith to overcome any adverse situations that come her way. Her resilience, sharpened by trials, helped her triumph over the less favorable aspects of being a nurse in a foreign country.

And now our family’s matriarch is facing another challenge — this time she is part of the team that races against time to respond to a worldwide pandemic, a battle where the common enemy is a stealthy virus that has already claimed tens of thousands of lives. 

With the rise of the number of COVID-19 cases, there is no better time than now to define her value as a nurse. The pandemic arrived, altering the lives of many healthcare providers just like her. In her words, “This is where the rubber meets the road.” It means: this is where things get real. 

Weeks after the cases started swelling in New York, she was called to report on the front lines because of the shortage of medical practitioners. The influx of patients overwhelmed the capacity of the hospital where she works. They had to stretch what resources they had to protect themselves while working.

New York has become the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States. According to recent reports, there are now more than 10,000 deaths and 200,000 positive cases in the state. 

I worry every time I think of her stepping forward as a nurse in a hospital teeming with COVID-19 patients. Her being exposed to the virus means that she can be infected anytime. And although she reassures us that she has ample rest, vitamins and a steady supply of healthy food, I still can’t help but feel helpless knowing that a treatment for the virus has yet to be discovered. 

On the other side of the world, the stories all speak of an overwhelming health crisis. The Philippines has fewer cases than the US but the country is still reeling from the outbreak. There is a clamor for medical supplies and protective gear. Full-scale mass testing is still being rolled out. Quarantine measures have been set, and people are wondering if these will be lifted or prolonged. Businesses have stopped operations, schools have postponed classes, mass gatherings are prohibited. 

 

I am well aware that our leaders are trying their best to quell the outbreak. There is a necessity to expand their roles. More than ever, it is best to set aside different interests and to push for effective actions.

 

I am well aware that our leaders are trying their best to quell the outbreak. There is a necessity to expand their roles. More than ever, it is best to set aside different interests and to push for effective actions. This is what my mom told me in one of our conversations, and I wholly believe in this. I wish that our leaders would also do their part in this crisis, as our doctors and nurses put their lives on the line in this situation. Of course, the question about how the disenfranchised many can go about doing this is another story altogether.

During our morning (night for us) chitchat, I tell my mom of mundane things to veer away from heavy issues. I tell her about my grocery trips and long waiting lines, the barangay-issued slips, or the lack of people on the streets. Our neighborhood, which houses a variety of people from different walks of life, has become a ghost town. My mom appreciates tidbits of information like this. I appreciate it, too, because it provides me a space where I can dwell on something trivial.

We also talk about things happening inside the house: how our pet dog, Willow, has grown up, what the menu is for the day, or if we’re doing our daily workouts. Since we are forced into “the great indoors,” Mom consoles us that at least we get more time to rest. I think she draws consolation from the fact that we are healthy and doing just fine.

My siblings and I are part of the privileged group that has internet connection, a well-stocked refrigerator, access to Netflix. And yet, doubts about what is happening continue to gnaw at us. 

As local and international news tell of the global health tragedy, my anxiety attacks have become more frequent, causing me to toss and turn in bed until the wee hours of the morning. In a bid to stop the dose of negativity in my life, I’ve had to hold back from following daily developments. Part of this is limiting my news reading and scrolling social media platforms — for my mental health.

Complaining should be at the bottom of my to-do list. Maybe it’s the cabin fever or too much social media exposure, but fear and anxiety run in my brain almost half the time. Sometimes I lament that my parents are in a coronavirus-infested area while my siblings and I are on the other side of the world — quarantined and safe at home. In an alternate universe where money is not a problem, we could be fighting the crisis together.

 

I lament that my parents are in a coronavirus-infested area while my siblings and I are on the other side of the world — quarantined and safe at home. In an alternate universe where money is not a problem, we could be fighting the crisis together.

 

The downturn is far from being lifted as the world anticipates the availability of a much-needed vaccine. But I’ve learned that turning to negative thoughts will take me nowhere. My state of mind must embrace a sense of normalcy and calm if I want to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If my mom continues to fight, so should I — the one who is battling the virus far from the war zone.

There is still so much to look forward to. When the crisis peters out, I have to continue working my way to see my parents. My mom still talks to me over Messenger and encourages me to enroll in graduate studies and continue my small accessory business. We talk of the future with hope, as should be the case, because this, too, I know, shall pass.

Even if life is on pause, for now, I will continue hoping for better days to come. Learning how to cope constructively is not an easy feat for me, but it can and must be done. Taking the time to reflect is crucial at a time like this when the turn of events can be overwhelming and uncertain.

I have realized that one’s fate can be fragile and unpredictable. The flow and ebb of life can seem insurmountable during unprecedented times. It is a far cry from the idealized social media posts that I used to consume. But I choose to hang on, live to tell the tale, and practice a fresh perspective about pursuing a better — if not the best — life.