For some people, the magnitude of this pandemic doesn't seem all too real. Unfortunately, these photos prove otherwise.
Amidst all that is happening, there are still a lot of people who downplay the magnitude of this pandemic and the disease itself. For some, it seems all too distant from their reality. For weeks I’ve been searching for photographs of its effects worldwide in hopes of illustrating it to those who put themselves at risk by simply ignoring the reminders from the government and health authorities. I simply wanted to make them believe, make them aware, and make them protect themselves. Little did I know that the opportunity to do that was right around the corner and it was in the form of a house guest that you would not want to welcome.
Forgive me for making this article minimally about photography. If you choose to read on, this will be about the photos that I feel duty-bound to show you. The photographs that follow are actual illustrations of how COVID-19 hit us, how much it has disrupted our lives, and how real it has gotten for us. Ours is nowhere near the worst story about the deadly virus. But nonetheless, it is a story to be heard.
First let me tell you a bit about myself. Writing for this site consumes less than 1% of my entire week on average. Aside from being an architecture photographer, my day job involves having sick people come to my office and I offer them solutions. Yes, I am a doctor. I met my wife in medical school on our second year, we became best friends, and this year, in the middle of February, before things started getting unimaginably crazy, we got married. We moved into a home just fit for the two of us and our dog. One bedroom, one bath, and a common area that’s half kitchen, half living room. It was our first time living together and for a little less than a month, it was perfect. Until, of course, an uninvited guest arrived.
It was March 17, a little over a month after our wedding, when the number of confirmed COVID19 cases in our country began to rise. In almost a flash, things started going downhill for our country. The government enforced a community quarantine that shut down every industry, every school, and every workplace. People were forced to stay at home and not go to work while we, my wife and I, wanted to do the same but obviously needed to play our role in easing the burden of society and be true to our oath. Skipping work for us also meant that our colleagues would have to work double shifts (for my wife, their shift is a whopping 24 hours) and that also means double the risk.
The reason why this variant of the coronavirus is such a tricky little pest is because it starts with the mildest symptoms. Dry cough, fever, a cold, and often, only one of those symptoms manifest in the early stages. But when it hits someone with a not-so-sturdy immune system, old people, people with cancer and other chronic diseases, or even just someone severely overworked, that’s when it can get deadly.
About two weeks since the start of our lock down, my wife developed symptoms and was later tested positive. Her doctor decided to put her on home care and quarantine based on protocol and her clinical status. On that day, every comfort we were enjoying drastically changed.
My wife took the bedroom and luckily, we had a convertible couch for me and the dog. The hard facts were that she was positive, and she could spread the virus to me, who at the time did not know whether I had it or not. We had to avoid any form of contact or even breath the same air until she takes another test that would come out as negative. The adjustments were so drastic that it could drive one mad.
For over two weeks now, I could only see her either on video call or through the window in our balcony. The kitchen is on my side, so I prepare all her meals. I would have to wash my dishes first along with the pots and pans, then wear a mask to get her dishes, rinse them with boiling water, and use about ten times the normal amount of soap to wash them. We’ve also had to rely on food and supplies that our families would send us and have the delivery crew leave them on a small chair by the door.
Every time one of us uses the bathroom, that person would have to spray a crazy amount of bleach or alcohol to disinfect anything and everything we touch. Our trash has to go through a special way of disposal and has been waiting for 10 days (and counting) to be picked up by the local authorities. For over two weeks, we have only left our home once to go to the hospital for a quick diagnostic procedure and we literally sprayed alcohol on anything we touched to protect anyone else that we might infect.
On day 14, the local health department took the initiative of doing her second throat swab in our home in hopes of avoiding any unwanted contact with and subsequent transmission to anyone else. To give a blunt illustration of how uncomfortable the procedure is, you should know that the cotton tip that they use is about 6 to 8 inches long and has to go all the way through both your nose and mouth.
But the story of which I don’t have a picture of, and would really prefer not to have, is the one of the fear. The fear that your life may change drastically in extraordinarily little time. The fear that someone you love might take a turn for the worse and the fear that you might actually be next.
These photographs, for me, illustrate the pain of seeing but not being able to touch the person you love, not being able to give them a hug to comfort them as they fear for their life, and the anxiety of having to watch each day go by with absolute uncertainty on whether you (and your loved one) would be fine or not. As of writing this, I have found out that my test came back negative and we are still waiting for my wife’s second test result which may come in about a week. We’re okay but aren't exactly in the clear yet.
This is nowhere near the worst horrors of this pandemic and I write that with absolute gratitude. But I do hope that these photographs can change a few doubtful minds and push everyone into taking maximum precaution. I hope these photos showed you just how real the situation is.