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A spotlight on Miami's frontline families

For some students, the cancellation of the semester meant going home to the safety of their homes and families where they could all bond over the fact their lives have been put on hold indefinitely. 

For others, it meant the complete opposite. 

These students have gone home to find their family members thrown onto the frontline, their lives shifted into overdrive as they are also placed in the line of fire while their relatives fight the good fight against the novel coronavirus. 

From working overtime to coming home and isolating themselves from their family out of fear of infecting them, this time is even more harrowing for medical personnel. 

Sophomore journalism major Abigail Kemper’s mom, Liz, is working double time right now. She works 12-hour shifts twice a week at Mount Carmel Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, as an emergency room nurse and takes care of her two college-aged daughters. One top of that, she is making the transition to online classes alongside her kids. 

Liz is in a grad program to become a nurse practitioner. However, her field classes and clinicals have resorted to online simulators, and Kemper and her sister act as her test patients. 

Kemper recalls that her mom has had to go into rooms in the hospital that are sectioned off specifically for the coronavirus, and she has had to don the plexiglass headgear. Liz even wears it at home sometimes.

“It looks so funny on her,” Kemper said. 

Jokes aside, when her mom gets home from a long day at the work, she heads straight to the shower. She spends most of her time at home in her office. While this routine is in place to prevent contact with her children, the practice is mainly for Kemper’s stepfather who is immunocompromised. 

“For a lot of nurses,” Kemper said, “the nurturing is being expended at the hospital. We have to have so many precautions, she’s really on us.” 

The coronavirus has even caused families in the medical field to splinter and move out of the home. Sophomore chemical engineering and music performance major Evan Danielson is currently living with his brother in Dayton, Ohio, while his mother works back home in Oxford. 

His mother is a family doctor who works both at her own practice as well as McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital. In the beginning, the family wasn’t worried as his mom has her own car, her own bathroom and her own bedroom. She was very diligent in wiping surfaces and wearing her face masks around the house. 

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After the increased confirmed cases in Oxford, he moved in with his brother in Dayton where he plans to remain until at least the summer.

His mom is not the only relative to be in the medical field. He has two other older brothers, one is a resident at the University of Cincinnati and the other a student at the Ohio State University medical school.

“It’s scary,” Danielson said. “At this point, it’s something you have to accept. [Everyone is] kind of on the frontlines at this point. We are all in this together.” 

He remains optimistic, though, as he constantly gets updates from his mother. 

“They don’t expect to be overwhelmed with patients,” Danielson said. “It’s a lot different than two weeks ago. The big issue is if people start running out of equipment.”

In Detroit, Michigan, that issue has come to a head. The hospitals have become full of patients, and the state has had to utilize buildings that house businesses deemed inessential to build makeshift hospitals. 

Junior mechanical engineering major Carmella Bate’s father, David, is one of those people who has had his job completely changed overnight. He is the building facility engineering manager for the TCF Center. The building is usually home to events like the North American International Auto Show that was slated to be coming to Detroit in early June until it was canceled. 

The state took advantage of the building, and Bates’ father is now in charge of assisting the National Guard with the conversion of the space into an emergency triage center with 1,000 beds. 

The center underwent a major renovation to prepare it for use. Certain areas were blocked off as patient “rooms.” Her dad was in charge of installing an entire new air system for the building.

He can only enter and exit through certain areas of the building, and luckily, his job requires him to stay in his secluded office most of the time. 

Last week, he worked 12-hour days that totalled an almost 60-hour work week. As a part of running the building operations, he was tested for the coronavirus, but the results came back negative. He has to park in an entirely different parking lot. When he comes home, not much about his attentive demeanor changes. 

The transition has been quite an adjustment for Bate and her family. Carmella was still in Oxford when she found out about the change in her dad’s position.

“I definitely freaked out a little bit,” Bate said. “He’s 59, he has a dad bod, and while he’s mostly in good health, he’s still mixing with other people, and Detroit is one of the places that has had the most cases. He’s being taken care of, though.”

When he gets home, he also has to be careful about being too close to his family. Carmella’s mom has asthma, making her immunocompromised. The house remains spaced out almost all of the time as Carmella and her brother don’t want to accidentally infect their mother because they come into contact with her dad. As for groceries, Carmella ends up taking one for the team and going out with her mask when her dad is unable to go. 

In these times, most people are eager to get back to work and resume normalcy. 

As for the people who have been forced to work overtime, it’s not so easy to say when that will return as they cannot help but bring their work home with them.

kwiatkdm@miamioh.edu

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