Corona’s Worst Nightmare
By Sidney Castiblanco, First Responder and Son
It is with sorrow, and also with celebration of the strength and generosity of the human spirit that we share this writing by a member of Herstory’s campus/community workshop at Stony Brook University, with meetings now taking place online. We publish the first part of this heartbreaking story as a tribute to all who experienced family separation around the harsh immigration laws, and now are reliving that separation once again and to all who are in the front lines of putting themselves in danger to give to others in this time when every one of our hearts need to be open to our interconnectedness
8:30 pm, My dad calls me for an emergency that is happening as I treat a patient. I can hear in his voice that he was in a lot of stress, he tells me “ I think I’m having a heart attack again.” For a minute I thought it was a dream, until my partner asked me, “Are you ok?” “No, Danny, my dad is having a heart attack”.
I have never been close to my dad. When I was a kid, he left when I just was five years old. Therefore, I have very little memory of him. The only time I remember was when he was getting ready to come to the USA. I was almost 15 at that time, and he came back to our house in Chiquinquira, a small city near Bogota the capital of Colombia. The family court ordered him to pay child support. He had owed my mother for the past 10 years, so my mom made a deal in court and agreed to let me come to the USA with him.
At first, I was kind of worried. After all, I did not know who he was and how this was going to change my life. My mom said to me, “It is ok if you don’t go after all. He never was here for any of you.”
My father left and promised my mom that he was going to get me to the US as soon he had a place and a job. One year later, he sent for me, I had just turned 16. I did not know the language, the culture, and even my father. All this was new to me.
I lived with him for about 3 years, on and off, I still did not know him and I feel today that I still do not know who he is. However, there is something that brought us together, COVID-19.
March 18, 2020. This was one of the worst days of my life. My sister called and asked if I could check up on Dad. As I ended the call with her, Dad called to tell me, “I’m having a heart attack.”
Since I work as a paramedic in New York City, I called my dispatcher and asked for a bus (ambulance) to his location. Seconds turn into minutes, minutes into hours. I do not know what to do., It was like I forgot everything I knew during my time as a medical provider. Finally, the crew found my father and reassured me that he was okay, and they were going to take him to a hospital in Queens, which they did.
I’m done with my patient and I head to NYP, (New York Presbyterian Hospital) where he is being taken care of. My first reaction was to get to his bedside and find out what’s wrong with him, but the nurse in-charge tells me, “There are no visitors allowed anywhere in the hospital.”
I waited outside the Emergency Room for a shift change, I walked back inside and a familiar face was there. She said, “sorry I cannot let anyone in, orders from the Department of Health.” Then I realized how serious the situation was.
I was in touch with Dad, using my cell phone. At first, he looked fine, but as time was progressing, he started to get sicker.
March 23, 2020. Still talking to dad, yet every day he is losing ground. He looks pale. Itt feels like he does not want to live anymore. My sister, brother and I try to do as much as we can to cheer him up. And then the moment of truth; he is no longer talking to any of us. I call the unit and his primary care doctor at the emergency room tells me, “I’m sorry, but your father took a turn for the worse.”
At that moment I did not know what to do, my father made me his health care proxy. This was something I was not ready to face. A million things ran through my head, I’m his oldest son, and he gave me the responsibility of making what is best for him. My initial thought was how can I make a decision so important? Yet, the life of my father, someone whom I really do not know, is in my hands.
As a paramedic, it is easy to make those decisions, and for most of the time, we know the outcome. Yet we try to comfort the family, just to minimize the pain., I will do anything I can to save that person’s life, and I know in my heart, that I will give it everything I’ve got to do that. But in this case, I got lost. I was there to make a difficult decision, yet I did not want to make the wrong decision. I call Uver and Johanna, my siblings, for advice three times a day, just to be sure that it was the right thing to do.
To be continued…