My Family’s Experience Living with an ER Doctor During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dr. Bonfiglio’s (cover photo) family hardly sees him because is helping to lead the coronavirus response in their region 

Julia Bonfiglio
Contributing Writer

March 30 marked National Doctor Day in the U.S. This year the date brought extra significance to millions of Americans as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. We remember the doctors who are risking their health and safety, committing countless hours to help individuals in the wake of this health catastrophe. These humble heroes are facing new challenges everyday, as they strive to save lives and stop the spread of the virus.

National Doctor Day hits especially close to home for my family and me. My dad is an ER doctor and has been practicing medicine for more than 27 years. Over the course of his career, he has been fortunate in that this is the first pandemic he has ever had to face.

I cannot speak for other families and individuals who have been impacted by the effects of the virus, however, I can provide a comprehensive look inside a family home where a member is a medical professional on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.

Our family dynamic has changed drastically since the COVID-19 crisis was first reported in the U.S. on Jan. 20, 2020. Soon after the first case was reported in the U.S., my dad went into emergency preparedness mode. It wasn’t long before that there were cases being reported in Michigan near our home and in the hospital where he works.

The first dramatic change that happened to us due to my dad’s role in the hospital was his absence. He is an ER doctor and a chief medical officer (also known as a “CMO”). He was also recently appointed “incident commander” in response to the pandemic. This means that he has no days off and is working long hours every day of the week for the foreseeable future.

However, on March 12, he had possible contact with a patient who came into the ER who tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, my dad was sent home where he had to self-isolate for two weeks. This meant that he worked from home for 14 days. Never in my life has my dad worked exclusively from home, and my family shared our thoughts of apprehension in this time of transition and change.

See also- 10 Things to Know During the COVID-19 Pandemic, According to an ER Doctor

As a family, we were also worried for his health. Waking up every day and hoping that our loved one will remain healthy is unfortunately something that many Americans are facing during this uncertain time. Thankfully, the two weeks that followed after his quarantine went smoothly as he worked in our basement and was able to effectively communicate with his coworkers.

At the end of the two weeks, my dad never presented any symptoms, so he was allowed to go back to the hospital. This, however, caused my family to be worried for the health and safety of my dad, as well as our own. My dad has taken many steps to ensure that our health remains intact, however, the uncertainty that comes along with a new illness is still scary. The preventative safety measures that my family has had to take due to the situation is a series of steps that promote cleanliness and separation.

Social distancing is a must. We do not leave the house unless it is absolutely essential that we do so. For example, my mom, my siblings and I all take turns going to the grocery store. We take hand sanitizer with us and take time to sanitize our groceries with cleaning supplies before we bring them into our home.

My dad also has to stay away from us, which means he sticks to a strict routine. He takes his temperature twice a day every day to make sure that he does not have a fever and is not ill. When he comes home from work, he immediately goes to the garage where he changes out of his scrubs into fresh and clean clothes. He leaves his shoes and scrubs in the garage where they are later cleaned.

Then, he thoroughly washes his hands and walks into our basement where he takes a shower. By the time he comes upstairs anything that was in the hospital has been cleaned and is separated from the rest of the house. Most of his time is spent in the basement where he is far away from the rest of the family.

Overall, the COVID-19 virus has had a strong effect on my family dynamic as we hardly see my dad because he is at work in order to protect people and keep them healthy. My heart went out to all doctors and their families on National Doctor Day this year, as many are having to be separated from their loved ones and worry as they face this pandemic.

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