Reporter’s Notebook: ‘It Really Does Feel Like Life Or Death’

Simran Sethi, center, with her father, left, and grandfather, Papa Jee, at their family home in India in January 2020. (Photo/Simran Sethi)

For the past three weeks, I have been living in isolation with my boyfriend and his family in a lovely home in Georgia, where we have food, shelter and each other. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t seem too bad; I just felt lucky to be safe, sound and secure. 

Surely, we could get through this just fine, I thought.

Then, I received a call from my father on April 1. He told me my grandfather, an 83-year-old man with respiratory problems, had tested positive for COVID-19. The first thing I thought was: “There is no way he will make it through this, not in these circumstances.”

My grandfather lives in Delhi, India, one of the most crowded, polluted cities in the world. The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has ordered a three-week lockdown of homes in India to slow down the pandemic in Indian communities.  

All of a sudden, COVID-19 became all too real. Now, it really does feel like life or death. 

Everyone is trying to find a system within the chaos. As a Grady student taking a course in health journalism, I’ve learned about the speed news needs to be delivered during a public health crisis, and how it becomes especially important to only give the most important information to the public. The media need not invoke more fear in their audiences than the data itself shows. 

There is so much that we can’t control right now, no matter how hard we try. Many people have lost the jobs they had just last week. The Labor Department estimates that more than 7 million Americans lost their jobs in March. 

Before the phone call from my father, my only worry was whether or not there would be enough toilet paper at the store once we ran out. Now, I have someone I am really worried about. I have no way to help my grandfather, who I may never see again. And I am starting to worry more and more about my mom, grandma and other family members in both the U.S. and in India, who I am not with.  

At this point, many of us are finding comfort in the things we can control and the love we have to give. I’m in quarantine in a secluded gated community, where everyone has been keeping to themselves in their own homes. I celebrated my 21st birthday with the family I have here, dancing to loud music all over the house instead of in a bar, which, honestly, isn’t something I feel I missed out on.

The Centers for Disease Control advises taking special care of your body, through things like exercise, meditation and well-balanced meals. Stay at home, wash your hands, call your loved ones and remind yourself that everything is temporary, even if it seems like it will never end. 

Simran Sethi is an undergraduate student taking a seminar focused on health and medical journalism for spring 2020.



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