A Reader Shares About Losing Her Parents to COVID-19

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It’s safe to say that at this point, many of us know of a person who has had COVID-19 or has had it themselves. Anxiety and stress are at an all-time high with so much uncertainty still ahead of us. With over 500,000 deaths in the U.S. alone, this pandemic has undoubtedly impacted the lives of countless families. A Hoboken Girl reader Sheryl Pabatao was one of those people who were directly impacted. She lost both of her parents to COVID-19 and shared her story with us so that people can be aware of her experience and how lives can be affected. 

A Profound Loss

sheryl pabatao loses parents covid-19

Sheryl, a Bergen County native from the Philippines, recalls taking many precautions against the virus right from the beginning. Her parents, Alfredo, 68, and Susana Pabatao, 64, also tried their best to be as safe as possible since they both worked in hospital settings for over 18 years. 

“Because [COVID-19] was brand new, both of the hospitals didn’t provide enough PPE for my mom and dad,” said Pabatao about the beginning of the pandemic. “There was a memo that was sent from my mom’s hospital stating that they were not allowed to wear any masks inside because it could create some type of scare. So it was a difficult time to navigate for us because we didn’t know how to go about it.” 

Sheryl and her parents dealt with the uncertainty that came with the virus and continued to work until tragedy struck. Sheryl says her dad was the first to become sick, and two days later was admitted to the hospital. 

“He only went to make sure he didn’t have COVID-19 because it seemed like he only had a cold, or some type of the flu so we went to the hospital,” she said. “He had a doctor’s appointment that same day, but the doctor didn’t want to see him. The doctor was like, ‘no I don’t want to see you. It is getting worse. Go to the ER because they can check everything there. I can’t really do much for you here.’ That same day I called the CDC and it was the same thing. They don’t know what to do. So I took my dad to the ER and within the week, he passed away.” 

Read More: On Losing My Sister to COVID-19 — A Hoboken Girl Contributor Shares Her Story

Soon after her dad was admitted to the hospital, Sheryl and her mother began experiencing symptoms.

“She started feeling sick when my dad went to the hospital,” said Pabatao. “That night, she had a fever of 103. I also had a fever and was sick as well, but with my mom being sick, my dad being in the ER, I couldn’t even think of myself. I was just thinking about them.”

After three attempts to get tested were unsuccessful due to capacity being reached at a local testing site, Sheryl decided to take her mom to the hospital, and things began to get worse from there.

“Her fever fluctuated,” said Pabatao. “She got better, and then she got worse. It was very frustrating. Her blood pressure was super low. That’s why I was begging her to go to the hospital. That morning we were talking to my dad and we were joking around. He was saying he was fine and that he didn’t need the oxygen. That was at 10AM that morning. We were FaceTiming him, and he was encouraging us to stay strong and that everything was going to be okay, and that everyone was going to be okay. At 2PM, we were told he went into cardiac arrest twice, so my mom from then on lost it. She was so worried. Knowing that my dad was in the ICU, he was there by himself. She got worse.”

Sheryl’s parents passed away a week apart from each other in the same hospital, alone. Nine months later, Sheryl says that she isn’t able to see her extended family often because of their underlying health conditions. She shared some of her coping techniques, and what tools she’s used to keeping her spirits up.

Healing

“I listen to a lot of worship music and motivational speakers,” said Pabatao. “It’s been helping me a lot. Nature therapy. My church family has helped me a lot to find peace in the middle of this. It’s been really hard for me to navigate through it alone. Church has been helping me a lot. Which has been amazing for me.”

See More: ‘I Suddenly Lost My Sense of Smell and Taste:’ A Local COVID-19 Patient Shares Her Story

Her faith, she says, has helped put everything into perspective for her.

“My parents, they give me the strength to go about life because I know they wouldn’t want me to feel sorry for myself. We were raised {with the mentality that} when it’s your time, it’s your time,” she shared. “Everything happens for a reason, and I know they wouldn’t want me to feel the way I feel. Not being able to cope, not being able to get over it.”

Sheryl has a message for everyone who may still believe that the pandemic is not worth taking seriously.

“This is serious, whether you like it or not,” said Pabatao. “I don’t think you will ever know how it feels unless you lose a loved one, and I don’t want anybody to go through what I have gone through. I don’t want you guys to wait until the moment that you have to feel the way I feel before you take everything seriously. Be cautious at all times, care for others, I think that’s what we’ve been lacking. We need to care for others.”    

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Yarleen is a lovable Leo and a proud Jersey girl with Cuban roots. She’s an actor and freelance writer with an affinity for poetry, astrology, and fried plantains. Born in Jersey City and raised in West New York, where she currently resides, this Hudson county native can usually be found with an Americano in hand, or any caffeinated beverage really. A St. Peter’s University alum with a degree in Communication and Media Culture, Yarleen was News Editor of her college newspaper, while also reporting for the Hudson Reporter and The Jersey Journal. When she’s not on stage, enjoying a new hobby {currently rollerblading}, or typing away at her laptop, you can catch her running along the waterfront listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers or exploring NYC galleries.