TALES FROM HUMBER: Love, family and lessons in the Christmas of COVID-19

by | Dec 18, 2020 | Tales From Humber

KOROSTYSHIV, Ukraine — Seeing my mom crying was breaking my heart. She was wiping her tears and packing clothes for my dad as he prepared to enter the hospital.

Little did she know she would soon be occupying a hospital bed right next to him.

Our family’s battle with COVID-19 started with my aunt and uncle getting sick. Not long after they tested positive, my godfather — who works with my dad — started to show symptoms. That’s when we knew our family was at risk. But we were not expecting it to become so serious.

My dad didn’t pay much attention to the first symptoms. He didn’t think a headache and feeling of weakness were cause for alarm. But in a couple of days, things got worse.

He developed a fever. That’s when my mom stopped letting him go outside. Spending hours in bed, drinking hot tea, my father tried to convince us he was getting better. But we insisted on a COVID test and he was positive.

His fever and headaches persisted. He tried to hide how he was feeling because that’s how we are used to seeing him – always funny and cheering everyone up. But when he was diagnosed with pneumonia, my dad was taken to hospital.

Things quickly got worse. My mom tested positive. Doctors found a clot in her lungs. When they told her the results, she resisted.

“I can’t stay here, I have two kids at home,” my mom said. But when the doctors explained the dangers of that clot, she agreed.

Vitalii and Svitlana Vasyliuk in hospital, Korostyshiv.

Vitalii and Svitlana Vasyliuk from the window of their hospital room in Korostyshiv, Ukraine, as they both try and recover from COVID-19. Photo credit: Natalie Vasyliuk

My parents sleep on wonky, old beds and enjoy views of cracked wall paint. It’s definitely not the Christmas experience we were hoping for.

My mom does get to come home every evening at about 10 p.m., while my dad stays at the hospital full time.

I am staying at home with my 10-year-old sister. Both of us have had COVID-19 symptoms, but not as severe as our parents. The only thing bothering me was the complete absence of smell, which, I must admit, is a very confusing feeling.

The experience of being a mom for my sister turned out to be much trickier than I could imagine. Cooking, cleaning, making sure she takes her medicines and goes to bed on time, doing my assignments and helping her with homework makes me feel pretty exhausted at the end of the day.

I try to look at it as an opportunity to improve my time-management skills.

“I don’t stress about you two being home alone, because I know I can rely on you,” my mom said.

Every time she comes home, I can tell how glad she is to see we’re doing well, and that’s the most rewarding feeling.

I really miss having dinner together, watching movies and laughing at my dad’s jokes. For now, the only way we can see him is through a window in his hospital room. But nothing can make my dad lose his sense of humour.

“There’s this old lady living right next to me, and it’s so hilarious how every time she accidentally walks into my room instead of hers,” he told me on the phone.

I’m proud of having such strong parents, and I hope the worst part is over. But through this, I’ve come to realize something as simple as it is profound: every second of life is precious and we have to enjoy it because we never know what might be coming our way.