This article is part of a series called “On the Frontlines,” where we profile the struggles of those who fought the COVID-19 virus as frontline or essential workers, as they process the toll this pandemic has taken.
Dr. Seema Rizvi realized that the pandemic had reigned her in when she was pulled over by a police officer for speeding.
After having a stressful day at the nursing home she works for, she was driving too fast without even realizing it during the beginning of New York state’s lockdown last spring.
“I felt like I was driving in a haunted ghost town. I didn’t realize that I was speeding,” she said. “When the two cops approached me, I abruptly said ‘please be kind to me.’ And they both came back to me and said, ‘thanks Doc, for what you’re doing for us.'”
For a moment, Dr. Rizvi found clarity in the darkness she was experiencing on a daily basis at the height of the pandemic.
Before she went for a drive, she had watched as a cancer patient she was treating caught COVID and passed away three days later.
“I went into her room and I saw her last moment of life, no one was in the room, and there was agony on her face,” she said. “I just held her hand for five minutes.”
The pain she has witnessed has made her question the efficacy of the U.S. healthcare system.
“It was very unfortunate to see people die without proper treatment,” she said.
When she went home every night, she saw how her work forced her to isolate even further from her husband and daughter, and how customs and traditions had to be altered for her safety.
“For the first six months, I did not even hug my daughter at all or my husband,” she said. “I also felt so removed from the emotional kind of touch from from hugging my daughter during our religious holidays.”
Today, Dr. Rizvi sees a light at the end of the tunnel, both with the arrival of three vaccines to protect against COVID-19 and with her patients being able to reunite with families.
“If the pandemic crisis was a very painful, heartbreaking and traumatic experience for us, it’s a good feeling that things are getting better,” she said.