Despite her ordeal, Jessie Ruiz said she would do anything for her parents. The coronavirus may have given her anxiety and depression, but taking care of her parents had brought her much closer to them.
By Marivir Montebon, OSM! Online Magazine
HACKENSACK, NJ — Jessie Ruiz, 29, lives with her aging parents to take care of them while she goes to a local community college. In a traditional Filipino household, despite the overwhelming work of caregiving, her situation is fairly not uncommon.
But when her parents, Leo and Rose, got seriously ill after contracting the coronavirus in March, Jessie didn’t expect it to be a herculean task. Her stress mounted as she watched her parents getting sicker by the hour.
“I felt so alone. I had to keep track of dates, times, phone calls—everything,” she said. “And, of course, there was also the pressure of finishing school.”
Leo, a retired U.S. Postal Service worker, and Rose, a former nursing assistant, have Type 2 diabetes. They believed they may have contracted COVID-19 from Leo who was exposed to the virus while working temporarily with a delivery services company.
“When my mom’s test came back positive, we agreed to get tested. All of us turned out to be positive for the coronavirus,” Jessie said. “My brother and I were asymptomatic. My dad, who did not have difficulty breathing and had a good appetite, decided to stay at home. But it was my mom who was hit hardest.”
On April 8, as Rose’s health condition worsened, Jessie and her brother decided to take their mother to the hospital. That day was Rose’s 67th birthday.
“From the moment she got admitted to the hospital, none of us in the family was allowed to see her. My anxiety spiraled,” Jessie said. “She was in the hospital for more than two weeks. And when we called her cell phone, she could not even pick up our calls.”
A call at midnight
Meanwhile, at her parents’ home in Hackensack, Jessie said she still had to take care of her father’s needs. Taking the role of her mother, Jessie had to make sure everything around the house was in order.
She described how she had to clean the house everyday and make sure that they had groceries and toiletries. And, most importantly, she had to keep in touch with her mom and update her father and siblings.
“All the while,” she added, “I had to keep up with my own school work and my relationship with my boyfriend.”
When Rose was finally discharged from the hospital, she was taken directly to a rehabilitation center in order to get more laboratory tests and recuperate from the complications of COVID-19.
But Rose, again, couldn’t be reached because her cell phone had been left uncharged. Her children’s calls kept going to her voicemail.
Then, a call came in at midnight: Rose fell in the bathroom.
She hit her head on the floor, according to one of the staff members at the rehabilitation center, and she had to be rushed to the hospital.
“They (staff) were not helpful. They were not careful. No one ever called me back to give me information on my mom’s condition. And when they did call back at midnight, it was only to tell me that they found her on the floor and she had a hematoma on the right side of her face,” Jessie said, recounting the incident.
Jessie and her siblings decided to cut short Rose’s rehabilitation program. After finding out about her fall, they decided to bring her home even if it was against medical advice.
But while hoping to get her strength back at home, Rose suddenly had a stroke. She was taken back to the hospital and stayed there for another week.
“It was tough,” Jessie said.
Life after the storm
Despite her ordeal, Jessie said she would do anything for her parents. The coronavirus may have given her anxiety and depression, but taking care of her parents had brought her much closer to them.
Leo and Rose had survived the coronavirus. To date, she remains positive for Covid-19 and his test results are inconclusive. They are both in quarantine.
Jessie said she and her siblings have been practicing social distancing. They wash their hands, wear masks and gloves, and take vitamins to boost their immune system.
“I don’t have much ‘me time’ these days, except for a few minutes of video games,” Jessie said, reciting the household chores that were waiting for her to do. “But I am really happy [the storm was over] and I finished my first year in school.”
(Editor’s Note: The real names of the news sources and places are kept in private in anticipation of and respect for their work and school policies.)