Living With a First Responder


courtesy of Sharp Memorial Hospital Staff

Khazal and coworkers work with COVID-19 patients at Sharp Memorial Hospital.

Ghada Atalla, Staff Writer

   Families everywhere have been affected by the pandemic. My family has seen a drastic change in lifestyle as my sister, Noura Khazal, is working at Sharp Memorial Hospital to treat those with COVID-19. She is a first responder who has proven her bravery and service in the face of adversity. Though these are certainly trying times, we remind ourselves that we will always have each other.

   First responders are responsible for helping those who need it most and for keeping their chins up while doing so. My sister is willing to help COVID-19 patients get through difficult and scary times. She is here to help patients and to put a smile on people’s faces. “I believe that my purpose as a first responder is to help people who are sick and cannot take care of themselves,” said Khazal.

   Being a HealthCare Assistant on a COVID-19 floor means that she must take certain precautions. Khazal said that the lengthy process involves changing from personal to hospital scrubs, donning gowns, masks, and face shields when entering patient rooms, removing personal protective equipment upon exit and sanitizing, then fashioning on a new mask, and repeating. This extra caution can be arduous and exhausting. 

For frontline workers, this sense of vigilance extends outside of the hospital and into the home. “I have to be more cautious when I am coming in and out of the house so I don’t infect my family,” said Khazal. This means that family interactions are far more limited than what they once were, adding to the strain that frontline workers currently face.

My grandma and my aunt are both at high risk for contracting the virus, so we cannot visit them like we used to. With a family-oriented culture like ours, this has been very difficult and painful. We used to go to their house every weekend for lunch and to spend time with each other. Now, we just buy them groceries and drop them off at the door without contact. Khazal said, “It is really hard to not be able to see close family, especially my grandma because we are very close.” She continued to explain that the previous routine of weekly dinners with our grandma was their way to stay connected, and it’s been hard to go this long without seeing loved ones.

   Through this adversity, we have grown stronger. As a nurse, my sister has learned many valuable lessons and has become a better person because of it. She said, “The bond in our family is unique because…  the three of us are very close; we are very family-oriented. Yes, we can get on each other’s nerves and it happens a lot, but we love each other and we will protect our family.” In hard times such as these, this familial bond has kept us grounded.