“I hadn’t called my mom ‘mom’ for 45 years, I don’t know,” he said. “So I called her like, you know, ‘I love you mom, you’ll always be a part of our lives and memories. And it’s OK to close your eyes. We want you to close your eyes and be with daddy. ”
As we left the room, the screams continued. But Shabes was sure his mother heard him. Less than 24 hours later, she was gone.
However, at one point, as the specter of a global pandemic shifted from looming threat to everyday reality, the human toll behind the daily tally of cases and number of tests seems to have escaped collective sight, a- he declared.
“This is one of the reasons I agreed to do it. That’s the main reason, ”Jeff Shabes told CBC News.
“Much more than just a number”
“We need to let people know that it’s not just 1,500 cases per day and 13 deaths. There are families who suffer not only after the death of a loved one, but during… It’s more than just a number. ”
Born in Krakow in 1929, Malvina Shabes was forced to flee Poland at the age of 10 with her two-year-old brother, grandparents and nanny. Their journey ended in Siberia, Russia, in a labor camp, where food could be scarce and where they often had to be hidden in order to survive.
After the war, Malvina returned briefly to Poland and Germany, before coming to Canada in the late 1940s at the age of 19. Soon after, she married and had two sons, Jeff and his brother Steven.
Over the years, family and friends have been his number one priority, Jeff said. When her own mother was diagnosed with blood cancer, she and her brother decided to find a doctor who could help her. Her mother survived until the age of 93.
Malvina and her husband celebrated 60 years of marriage before dying seven years ago. But in recent years, she has started to suffer from dementia.
She was transferred to a home that specializes in caring for dementia patients and found a way to cope, participating in virtually all of her programs as far as she could and her appearance – as always – remained impeccable.
“She always had her hair done and her nails done,” Shabes laughs, remembering that he had never seen his mother with gray hair until recently. “She was really, really a matriarch and an elegant person. “
‘Easy to lose track of faces, lives, tragedy’
But stories like Malvina’s are increasingly lost in the daily din of numbers, said Toronto geriatrician Nathan Stall. It’s not just a matter of sentiment, he said, but ultimately has an impact on the policy itself.
“Once you’ve hit a milestone like 10,000 dead, it becomes easy to lose track of the faces, the lives, the tragedy that families are going through,” Stall said. “And that could be something that motivates us to change our approach in the second wave. ”
WATCH | New figures show wave two could affect long-term care homes:
Canada exceeded 11,000 deaths from COVID-19 this week.
Somewhere, more than 96 percent of those who have died in Canada from COVID-19 are over the age of 60. And nearly 80 percent were long-term care residents, Stall said.
“I would say these people are not the types of people that most Canadians identify with. We’re talking about a bias we call an identifiable life bias… the types of lives we identify with. ”
Consider a turning point in the history of COVID-19 in Canada, he said, “It wasn’t the death of a long-term care resident… it was actually the closure of the NBA. It was Sophie Grégoire Trudeau who caught COVID. It was Tom Hanks. This is what made us act. ”
Now, as a second wave has set in, it appears the focus is more on doing business and keeping the doors open than on the human cost of the resurgence, he said.
“There seems to be a kind of acceptance, a really frightening acceptance of the death of the elderly and people living in long-term care homes.
‘Wake up every day and check the numbers’
Holding provincial media briefings outside of a long-term care home rather than in businesses would be one way to keep focus on victims and frontline workers, Stall said.
“If we dehumanize what’s going on with COVID-19, I think it’s easy for people to also think that there is an acceptable compromise.
“I think in some ways the Canadian experience has woken up every day and checked the numbers … But I think our leaders could play a role in changing that and putting the focus back on the tragedy that is going on. so many Canadians and will unfortunately continue to live on for the next several months. ”
Asked late last week by CBC reporter Mike Crawley whether his apparent interest in the impact of COVID-19 on business equals his concern for the pain of families, the Premier of Ontario , Doug Ford, said at a press conference, “Nothing weighs more on me than when I talk to family members on the phone… I met a lady the other day who came to see me and m ‘said, “I want to thank you for doing a great job and I lost both parents in long term care a week apart two weeks ago.”
Premier Doug Ford often says his heart breaks for business people struggling with the pandemic. In the past week in Ontario, more than 100 people with COVID-19 have died. @CBCQueensPark asked Ford, “Why don’t you talk about it? ”
Here is his response: pic.twitter.com/o0yxvrfjOZ
“I take hundreds of calls. I’m one of the few elected officials in this country… it’s until midnight in his office to take personal calls and listen to concerns. Does this weigh on Mike? It weighs on me, I can assure you… if you don’t think it weighs on me, you don’t know me very well. ”
The statistics are “people with wiped tears”
Since her mother died last Tuesday, Shabes and her family have been praying every night.
But like so many families who have lost loved ones to the virus, their grieving process has been anything but normal.
“We cannot be there to hold on to each other,” he said. “It is a moment of solace and truly the start of a long healing process. We don’t have that. ”
Reasons like these mean Canadians can’t afford to lose sight of the lives behind the numbers, Stall said.
“There is a line that I have come back to often during the pandemic of one of the most famous epidemiologists who died almost a century ago, Sir Austin Bradford Hill,” he said.
“Health statistics represent people with wiped tears. “