When we say “frontline” we mainly think about doctors and nurses but there are also people who, during coronavirus pandemic, had worked a lot in a different kind of “frontline”, also. Anca Batiu, public health specialist, talks about highly emotional experiences and our lessons, these days – from mother COVID positive who gave birth and could not see her baby girl in the beginning, to entire families diagnosed with the virus, quarantine work with people coming all over Europe, stories, emotions, hard work and huge hearts beating together. Tears, the promise that “one day we will hug”, wonderful solidarity and a pandemic that took so many lives but also brought us “together” more than ever.
I don’t know how much she succeeded in sleeping since pandemic started – neither does she – and it’s a period she will certainly never forget, neither of us, actually. But Anca, Romanian public health specialist at Public Health Direction, is so grateful – for the fact that she had the chance to help, for wonderful people she had worked with, for all those people who have shown wonderful solidarity and helped when necessary.
She had spent most of her time at work, and kept on working on the phone when she got home – there was a day, for instance, when she had 85 calls on her phone, people in need searching for all kind of answers. Her colleagues became both a team and a family, where everyone knew what they had to do, had the right answers for people calling with so many different problems.
In some years, their work will probably remain in some statistics, with numbers and names and professional analyzes. But what they have lived this period will always remain deep in heart. People who have lost someone they loved while being quarantined and not allowed to leave. Families who could not participate to funerals. Anonymous dramas and lives that will never be the same.
Baby girl who was born during pandemics, with her mother COVID positive, the little girl negative and isolated from her first moment of life. “The mother could not see her child, and we asked the girls from the maternity to take some pictures and send them to her”, Anca remembers, with so much emotion in her voice. Mother was very young and had two more babies at home, that her husband was staying with. She was not allowed to see her baby girl until she was healed.
Then were quarantine experiences – people coming from abroad, that had to be taken over and put into quarantine for 14 days. Behind their special, big isolation costumes there was always a heart. “We went and told them we are dressed like this but my name is Anca, I work at the Public Health Direction and I tell you welcome home. You will have to stay in quarantine for the next 14 days”, she remembers. And the next 14 days they have spoken daily, to monitor their health. “Such connections create, different people with certain situations, problems, we promised ourselves that we will meet for a coffee once the pandemic is over”, she says.
One night – 2 o’clock in the night, more exactly – they were announced they had to quarantine a group or Roma people. They had run from Italy through Greece, 7 members of a family, but when getting to the Romanian border they have told – we are coming from Italy. They said they don’t lie, don’t want anyone to get ill because of them. “They all had fever, were dehydrated, tired, their tests were negative but spent 14 days in quarantine, I will never forget the fear, fatigue and despair from their eyes. They all came in one car, did not stop anywhere. I have got home 5 o’clock in the morning, took a shower and cried – for their mercy, for the mercy of us all because we had to go through this”, she remembers. Roma people were all ok and left for home after 14 days – but she will never forget them.
And so many others.
“There are entire families in hospitals, COVID positive, grandparents, parents and two children, and two days after the man was intubated and his wife told us “please, pray for us”, and we prayed. There was a family with positive parents who have left two children at home. Then children have been also confirmed positive, parents were in hospital, children had to be taken over separately and hospitalized”, she says.
This is one of the most emotional lessons of pandemic – in so many cases. Volunteers and foundations made shopping and cooked for people in need. Owners of guest houses where people have been put in quarantine have made small surprises for them, to help them smile a little – homemade bread, cakes, donuts. Donations were made for those who have lost their income – especially those in rural area, “day-workers”. “When they needed wood, pampers, food, we had one Facebook announcement and in two hours people had everything they needed”, she says.
At work, people had sent them food, cookies, T-shirts with encouraging messages, flowers, support and so much love. “The dimension of “together” was our most beautiful and important lesson this period. We promised ourselves that we will be ok and that we will be happy together, once this is over. You were not a state employee, you were someone in people’s service”, she says.
There are many things to learn these days, if we want to – and Anca thinks that one of the most important is that of living each moment, because you never know what is going to happen tomorrow. “What I truly hope is that we have learnt to appreciate everything we have in this life. It was my birthday during pandemic, I have met in the street two people I love, we just looked in the eyes and promised ourselves that one day we will hug. My parents live two blocks away and could not see each other, I have left necessary things at their door. I miss people, most of all, empty streets are awful”, she says.
PHOTOS FROM PERSONAL ARCHIVE
#coronastories are opened for people of all ages, from different professions and different countries. If you want to talk about the way you feel and understand these times, please contact me. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can also talk on Whatsapp – +47 455 17 634 or on Skype – Ramona Sarac.