“My Children Were Priceless Jewels”: Three Families Think About The Health Workers They Have Lost

The daughter of an internist in the Bronx, the father of a nurse in Southern California, and the son of a nurse in McAllen, Texas share how they were affected by grief over the death of their loved ones from Covid-19.

These health care workers were featured in the longstanding “Lost on the Frontline” project by KHN and The Guardian.

Dr. Reza Chowdhury was a beloved internist with a private practice in the Bronx and a trusted voice in the Bengali community in New York. His daughter, Nikita Rahman, said that despite the underlying health problems that put him at higher risk for covid complications, until mid-March last year he saw patients when he developed symptoms. He died on April 9, 2020.

A screenshot of Reza Chowdhury’s profile on KHN and The Guardian’s Lost on the Frontline database.

Nikita Rahman, the daughter of Reza Chowdhury:

My therapist says grief is the last act of love. Every time I miss him I think about how much I love him and emerge again. I like this framing of it. I think I only recently realized how much I loved him.

He was so loved by the community because he was just a general practitioner who did his job really well and caring and being honest. He was so present and could find life and joy in the little things like going for a walk. He loved his breakfast, even if it was the same breakfast every day.

In March, I flew home from California to be with my family. I read about Covid cases that cropped up in Italy and freaked out. My mother and I tried to convince my immunocompromised father to stay home from work. He said, “No, it’s not a big deal.”

Then, in mid to late March, he felt sick. At that time everyone was so concerned about the overcapacity of hospitals that the [guidance] wasn’t going to come unless you are insanely ill. We finally took him to the hospital. He was there for about 10 days and then had a heart attack.

Sometimes I go to my father’s grave by myself and bring tea because my father used to drink tea and read letters my friends wrote over the past year. He wanted to grow nice grass, whenever [my mother, brother and I] Come on, we’re bringing nice grass to make sure his property is nicely manicured. He told really good stories. I would do anything for audio recordings in which he tells stories. Now I’ve started recording conversations with family members.

When someone dies, the world goes on. You will go for a walk and you will be so upset, but the people around you can laugh or get on with their lives. You want the world to reflect how you feel inside yourself. You want it to rain Everyone is kind of miserable because of the pandemic. Everyone is at home and has to deal with a lot. In a way, it was nice to be forced to sit down and process it. There is no way to face your feelings.

Nueva Parazo was one Nurse in Southern California and one of dozens of health workers in the Philippines who have died from Covid-19. Her father, Chito Parazo, described her as a skilled and compassionate nurse and fond daughter. She died on September 5, 2020.

A screenshot of Nueva Parazo Singian’s profile on KHN and The Guardian’s Lost on the Frontline database.

Chito Parazo, Nueva Parazo Singian’s father:

It is true, life has to go on, but it will never be the same. I am 70 years old. I have maybe 10 or 15 years left. Maybe less. Of course, I’m glad I’m still alive, but for me we’re just going through the moves of life. We lost our 9 year old son Xerxes in an accident years ago and I still can’t accept that he died. My children were the priceless gems in my life, and I’ve lost both of them.

In the early days of the pandemic, I asked [Nueva] Submit leave of absence. She said, “I can’t just turn my back on these helpless people. This is the job I chose. “

Her youngest son took her to the hospital on August 3rd because she complained of breathing difficulties. She probably suspected that she had contracted the virus. When my wife was admitted to the same hospital with Covid in December, staff remembered Nueva. They said, “We tried to save her, Mr. Parazo, but we couldn’t. Her lungs were so badly damaged. “

I am so proud of her. She did her best to save people, despite all the dangers she was exposed to.

I shaved my head after Nueva died and vowed to grow it after the first anniversary of her death. I took medication to fight my depression. Despite the fact that I have psoriatic arthritis in both knees, bone spur in my left foot, and spinal stenosis, I still go bowling to forget what happened. It’s hard, but I have to be strong for my three grandchildren and my wife.

Jessica Cavazos was one Nurse in McAllen, Texasand the family member everyone turned to for wise advice and a dose of optimism. Cavazos hadn’t seen her son Jayden Arrington since 2013. After her death on July 12, 2020, 19-year-old Arrington was reunited with her family.

A screenshot of Jessica Cavazos’ profile in the Lost on the Frontline database of KHN and The Guardian.

Jayden Arrington, Jessica Cavazos’ son:

I called her Mamo. There were some family problems that kept me from spending more time with her and that I found difficult to live with. I hadn’t seen her since I was ten. When I was 17 I called her and we talked for two or three hours and I assumed I would see her again after I was 18. She passed by without her own son with her.

Some days I can’t function or accept that some people’s expiration dates are not what you’d like them to be.

I’ve learned that God won’t give it to you how you want it. He will give it to you so that you can watch you jump back. I’ve grown over the past few months. I’ve learned to control my emotions and be more open to what is given to me in life. And also be more grateful for what I have.

I’ve seen things a little differently since then [my mom died]. I try to find ways where every day is a good day, where I have no regrets or have a negative impact on someone. I try to keep people around me who I know can help me get through my days.

I’m hoping for a letter of admission sometime this month [to a nursing program]. I want to be a nurse, just like Mamo.

These conversations were compressed and processed.

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