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Citizen Voices

What Is It Like To Lose A Loved One To Covid

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In that moment I realized the importance of human touch. Words, no matter how well thought of, can never compensate for a silent hug exchanged between two victims of similar circumstances, writes Nayab Waqar

“Ayan sweetheart, listen to me very carefully. The doctors couldn’t take away papa’s pain and when it got bad, God asked papa to meet Him in Heaven so He could fix him”. This is the best explanation a 25-year-old sister could think of when her eight year old baby brother asked her when he could meet his father, having being separated from him for almost three weeks after his father went into quarantine when the relatively milder symptoms of covid-19 began to appear.

All that child wanted was for his father’s pain to end so he took the bargain not realizing he would never see his father, beyond that point in life.

I can’t even find words to do justice to what the mother of that child was going through that very moment having tested positive herself, in isolation with her two daughters aged 15 and 17. She cried and begged to see her husband one last time but those in possession of the corpse wouldn’t allow it.

The elder of her two daughters, beyond terrified seeing her mother’s condition, called every person in the family she could think of, pleading them to come before she loses her mother too, who had dropped almost unconscious on the floor. Imagine the helplessness of her loved ones who couldn’t even rush to her place to embrace her.

The most they could do was to tell her to hold on for the sake of her children if not for herself. In that moment I realized the importance of human touch. Words, no matter how well thought of, can never compensate for a silent hug exchanged between two victims of similar circumstances.

I can never forget the pain in her words which were broken by inconsolable crying and gasps. Her voice echoes in my ears as I write this. “He warned me. He said he wouldn’t be back if he was forced to go the hospital. We didn’t listen to him.” I wish this were untrue but it’s not. I don’t know how but he knew he was going to die and he wanted to go peacefully at home surrounded by the people he loved. But he died alone, surrounded by more people dying before or after him, right and left; a ventilator pipe down this throat, an NG tube up his nose, his arms and legs being tied to stop him from fighting the vent.

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He struggled to sit up even though he couldn’t breathe because he was restricted by the ties. My heart breaks thinking how he went down fighting for something as basic as air. A river of tears flows from my eyes when I imagine how incredibly scared he must’ve been, how he never got to say goodbye, how he would’ve been praying to God to take his life than bear the excruciating pain he was in for another second. What a painful way to go, mamu.

Nobody is going to touch my body after I die out of fear of contracting this deadly virus. I will not even get a proper burial let alone a funeral. They will just throw my body away somewhere where nobody could find it. Nobody would lower me into the grave. My friends and family will not even get to see me before I’m put under six feet of earth.

These were the concerns of a man who was profusely refusing to get treatment knowing well enough that without it he doesn’t stand a chance.

It took just seven days in total and only 72 hours after he was shifted to the ICU being declared a critical case for him to cease to exist. I haven’t slept in four days. First three nights, after my father was called to the hospital at four in the morning because my mamu’s condition deteriorated and he had to go on the vent and could potentially collapse as he was being transferred.

I kept reliving that moment as it happened looking at the time as I lay awake in my bed. My mind kept replaying the events that led to that phone call. Thirty minutes before I’m woken up to be told we’re losing him. Two minutes before dad gets the call. That’s all I kept hearing in my head. One minute to four, my eyes kept tracking the second hand of the clock as it completed the final round before bouncing on the door; my heart feeling like it would explode out of my chest as I waited for my dad to barge into my room to say those three words “We’re losing him”.

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I clung onto my sheets praying that doesn’t happen again. I still can’t sleep but tonight it’s different. Tonight I wish to be woken up to be told we’re losing him but he’s still alive, fighting for his life. Tonight I want to consider the possibility of him making out of this alive.

My hope was intimately linked to the oxygen saturation of his blood, rising as it increased and falling as it decreased. My family’s hope however was tied to me. They believed whatever this fourth year medical student told them thinking she knows better.

Little did they know I wasn’t playing the role of a person having at least some knowledge about what was going on but that of a scared little girl who couldn’t bear the thought of losing her mamu and so said whatever she had to keep herself going.

Losing him and the way it all happened broke me. And although I’m not my eight year old cousin but like him, the only thing that brings my exhausted mind some peace is the fact that he’s no longer in pain or hooked to machines. As for me and how I feel right now, like I just had all my happiness sucked out of me by the dementors from the third part of the Harry Potter series leaving me empty. I can only hope to gather enough strength to cast a Patronus charm one day.


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Naya Daur