Special Report

Shutdown: The Coronavirus

Coronavirus flipped my world upside down

The view from the parking lot where Shanila Kabir now lives in her Honda. Photo by Shanila Kabir

A month ago, I was living  in a $3,250 apartment in East Village and now I live in a four door Honda Accord in a hospital parking lot. The virus took away my freedom, my dream internship at CNN, and grad life at NYU, but it will not take my mother.

 After the lockdown of New York City, I decided to fly home for a week because Georgia suburbs felt safer than a big city during a global pandemic. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

 My 28-year-old brother was infected by Covid-19 shortly after I came home in late March. Faster than a row of dominos, my entire family of four was infected. We all suffered from different, but severe symptoms like pneumonia, fever and difficulty breathing.

I’m 24, my sister is 26 and every day is a challenge for my family.

Cases of coronavirus skyrocketed in Georgia in the past two weeks. The number of deaths were below 50 in late March and has now soared past 430 as of Easter morning.

“Whatever this is, it’s not a joke,” my brother said to me gently as I brought him oatmeal. I have never seen my older brother cry, but I saw tears as he struggled with eating.

After my mother’s fourth visit to the hospital, she cried and said she thinks she will lose her life to the coronavirus. She said it was best to do nothing and keep her at home. She is 49.

Coronavirus hit my brother and mother the hardest. According to the AJC, 61% of cases are patients between 18 and 59. 

I wasn’t going to lose anything else to this deadly virus. I chose to fight for us.

My mother started out strong after she tested positive with only a small cough. Her cough grew louder and more frequent followed by nausea. Hospital trips went from once every few days to two or three times in one day. Each visit came with more bad news like pneumonia and fluid in her lungs.

In four days, I drove to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Braselton, Georgia more than 10 times. My nights consisted of driving to the hospital at 1 am, falling asleep in my car, being woken up at 6 am by a call from a physician and coming back to the hospital twice before nightfall the next day.

I would drive up to four hours in one day. Along with the virus, I had breathing difficulties and strep throat. But I wasn’t sleeping or taking my medicine because I didn’t have the time to. The doctors kept calling for my mom to come in.

 It wasn’t visible, but I felt like a walking corpse. And one day I almost fell asleep behind the wheel.

“You’re not allowed to drive anywhere like this. You don’t need to take me to the hospital. If I’m going to die, I would rather die here surrounded by my children,” my mom said to me after I brought her home late at night.

I heard surrender in her voice, but I was not defeated. I knew this was not the end for our family.

“I can just stay in the parking lot for as long as you stay in the hospital if that makes you go. There are doctors outside 24/7 in case I get sick. I can bring food and my antibiotics, and I’ll get to rest,” I said to my mom.

The best way to take care of myself and be close to my mom was to live near the hospital, in my car. Home didn’t need me. My only purpose there was to take her to and from the hospital. I told her I’d stay only hundreds of feet away from her if she needed me.

She gave up hope so I gave her some of mine.

Living in my small car while tested positive for coronavirus doesn’t sound safe or smart, but it was the only way to get my mom to keep seeing the doctor.

My brain went into survival mode.

My mother thrives off her children’s love. If she sees me fighting for her, it will only push her to get better. The hope my mother lost was regained because her daughter was waiting for her.

This virus stripped away all of the luxuries in my life I thought were necessities like a kitchen and a bed.

 I am only 5’1 so sleeping in a car was not terribly uncomfortable. I had a blanket, fruit, water, and my antibiotics. I had time to rest and think about what I am up against. Instead of feeling bad that I was stuck in a car, I continued to feel hopeful because I could adapt to anything during this time of crisis.

I wasn’t the only one who waited outside for a loved one. I saw a tall man in a car much older than mine.

My time alone in my car made me stronger. I had nobody to talk to so I wasn’t straining my throat. I had no excuse to not take my medicine and my body finally got the rest it needed.

That is how you defeat coronavirus. You take every possible measurement and fight it. You don’t give up and let it take everyone it infects.

When it hurts to breathe, take deep breaths. Holding a deep breath feels like I’m hiding a cookie cutter in my throat.

Coronavirus  has a mind of its own. You just can’t kill it with Tylenol or go to the hospital and get an IV.

I did not let my mother give up hope. I will take every precaution and keep fighting. 



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