“Keep your family a little closer”: COVID breaks family, leaving brother and sister behind


TORONTO – Hannah Kim’s Instagram profile looks like most young adults – a sporadic account of life as a teenager, then a college student – snapshots of memories and selfies with friends. Her first post of 2020 was March 18: “Just zoom in !!!!!!!!!!!!! ” she wrote. It was a run-of-the-mill marker of how life had changed under the pandemic – everyone was on Zoom or Google Meet.

Her second Instagram post of the year came two months later, along with a series of old family photos: “A month ago we were a normal family… glad this 40s could give us all a little break. . Now it’s just my brother and I at home and I dread it so much. I break down every day. ”

She warned her supporters to take the virus seriously, to stay home, to wear a mask. And posted: “Get a little closer to your family tonight.” I really wish I could do it.

Hannah is a graphic designer and student at California State University Los Angeles who lived with her parents and teenage brother Joseph in a two-bedroom apartment in Koreatown, Los Angeles. In mid-April, her family moved their grandmother out of her nursing home and into their home in hopes of protecting her from COVID-19. By then, the virus had already left a devastating mark among the elderly in Italy and elsewhere and was spreading in long-term care homes in Canada.

“I guess you could say it’s bittersweet. It’s good to have my family together in one space, but at the same time I feel sad, ”she wrote in a series of essays documenting her family’s quarantine life during the pandemic for one. community journalism project on intergenerational storytelling, “K-Town is your town. “

My whole family is positive for Covid-19. We took this quarantine very seriously. Three weeks ago my grandmother and dad tested positive – both from completely different places. After that, my brother, my mother and me too. Then after that, my grandmother passed away. She was so strong. To this day, both of my parents are in intensive care at Good Samaritan Hospital. Dad is sedated, on a ventilator, and mum has breathing problems as well. If you didn’t know it, this virus affects your whole body. A month ago we were a normal family… glad this 40s could give us all a little break. Now it’s just my brother and I at home and I dread it so much. I break down every day. I’m so sad. But my only hope is to hold on to God every step of the way. Already, He has shown me so much love and grace. I miss my parents and my grandmother so much. I am on my knees praying for the return of my parents. Although I try to live in the present, I keep thinking about the past. Thinking about what I could have protected them from. The house is so strange without them. My Family is the very first CoronaVirus sob story I know of that is probably for you too. So that’s my warning. If you are going to go out, tie up your mouth and put on gloves. This virus is not a joke. People are suffering and dying. Please stop thinking it’s okay to go out just because the government says so. Do us a favor and stay at home. Hug your family a little more tonight. I seriously wish I could. # covid_19 #stayhome #family

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Caring for her grandmother, who suffered from dementia, could no longer walk, talk or use the bathroom independently, was a challenge for the family she wrote at the time. It was April and the family had made the difficult decision to close their father’s acupuncture clinic as well. He was approaching 70 and they thought it would be too risky for him and the family to stay open even though he was the family’s source of income.

“Since the quarantine, we have been filling more and more financial demands as the invoices come in. In addition, our new owner plans to demolish our four-unit apartment, ”she wrote in mid-April.

“We have no choice but to accept the cards given to us.” According to a Los Angeles Times article in June, the promoters planned to evict residents in August and refused to change their plans despite the Kim family’s plight.

Over the next three weeks, things took a devastating turn for the worse. Her grandmother had passed away, the whole family had tested positive for COVID-19 and both parents were in the hospital.

Everything changed on her birthday at the end of April, she documented. Her grandmother had had a fever so they called 911, fearing she would die if they didn’t, fearing that they would never see her again if they did. She was hospitalized, put on a ventilator and tested positive for the virus the next day.

During this time, his father had also felt under the weather. Hannah woke up one morning just after her grandmother was hospitalized, hearing sirens approaching. Her father had called the ambulance for himself, she wrote.

Her mother also started to feel sick and have difficulty breathing that same day. She took her mother to the emergency room and only waited hours before being sent home because there were no beds available, she said in her essay. At home, her mother was vomiting and coughing up blood, so they returned to the hospital the next day, where she was finally admitted.

Worries were mounting – about her parents, the bills, the dreaded hospital calls. Hannah was also finishing her last year of school.

“I’m afraid of the news the hospital will tell me the next day. I am terrified, but I still have to listen, ”she wrote on May 11, the day after Mother’s Day. That day, her mother’s breathing got worse and she was transferred to intensive care. Her grandmother had died a week after her admission at the age of 85, according to the Los Angeles Times, and her father, who had a pre-existing condition, was on a ventilator in critical condition.

“Being at home was hell. I can not do anything. I have no power. All I can do is pray, ”she wrote.

Her father died on May 21. He was 68 years old.

A GoFundMe was started by Hannah’s mentor and internship supervisor at the end of May to help support the family.

Her mother was moved from intensive care about a week later. Hannah and Joe got ready for his return home. Although both siblings also tested positive, the main symptom they experienced was loss of their sense of smell, according to an editor’s note on KQED, a member of the public media from NPR and PBS who reposted Hannah’s essays.

In early June, Hannah said her mother had finally tested negative for the virus and was recovering. She regained her strength, ate more, breathed much better. Hannah was able to visit every day and take care of her mother, who she described as strong – 60 out of 40 years old, with no pre-existing health issues. Still, she worried.

“Even if she heals, bringing her home will be another thing in itself. I don’t know how she’s going to cry and take the place where we all spent time together, ”she wrote in an update to GoFundMe.

A week later, another update: Her mother was returned to the ICU – her blood pressure and oxygen levels had dropped and she was put on a ventilator. Doctors told the family that her mother’s lungs were too scarred and hardened by the virus. She needed a lung transplant.

Hi all! Big update! My mom is finally at USC Keck Hospital. She was transferred yesterday morning and is settling in well. Over the next few days, she will be evaluated and considered for lung transplantation. Nothing is certain, but the fact that she is at USC is surreal. UCLA rejected her until the end, but USC was kind enough to welcome her and they’ve been so nice to us before. Thanks also to the director of LA Care for making our case an exception at USC. Tomorrow she will receive a tracheostomy, which is a much cleaner and more comfortable alternative to her ventilator than an oral ventilator! We are so excited for her. . . I just want to thank you for so much love and support. My brother and I are so overwhelmed with the business of the hospital, so it’s nice to come home with many warm messages! For the past week, I’ve been on CBS, ABC, NBC, and the LA Times. A lot of people have told me that being on the news wouldn’t make any difference, but the very day after I was on TV there were a lot of calls made and we got to USC so quickly. We realize the POWER of social media and it’s amazing. One thing that hasn’t been shown on TV is my appreciation for this community. It’s not just the Koreatown community or the Asian community. EVERYBODY contacts us seriously and shows us that they care about us. We may be separated by this 40s, but these actions show my family that we can all come together and take care of each other! . . Throughout this process, I still pray every day. Although our plight is tragic and horrifying time and again for me, Christ has shown my family so many blessings and I truly believe he has a plan for all of us. It was through Him that this story exploded. My mom may be just beginning her journey for a lung transplant, but in ONE WEEK we’ve made some serious progress. Thanks for sharing and thanks for your attention. I will update again very soon. Hopefully with more good news! Until then, Fight On ️ #keckmedicineofusc #usckeck # covid19

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Hannah and Joe expressed their gratitude for the enormous public support which they believe helped rush their mother’s transfer to USC Keck Hospital in mid-June, where she could be assessed as a potential candidate for the transplant. But doctors informed the family that their mother would not survive the operation.

On Hannah’s last Instagram post on July 18, there is a collage of family photos: of a smiling little girl and baby brother, mother and daughter, son and her parents celebrating a birthday. Her mother died four days earlier.

“The ventilator was her life support and her body couldn’t keep up.


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