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Voces Oral History Center Interview with Jasmine Virola

VOCES
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2:17 - Parents, Childhood, and Background

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Segment Synopsis: Jasmine was born and raised in New York City. Her father immigrated to the United States from Yemen at age 15 and made a living by starting his own business. Her mother and father met in an emergency room while they were both accompanying other family members. Jasmine is the fourth oldest of 19 siblings in total, between her father and his different partners. Jasmine’s mother is Puerto Rican and was born in Chicago. Growing up, Jasmine would split her time between her parents, but spent the weeks with her mom, who could be characterized as a happy person and a consistent caretaker. Jasmine’s mother fostered children throughout Jasmine’s childhood, so siblings have always been an important part in Jasmine’s life.

Keywords: New York

15:25 - Passing of her Mother and the Late Teenage Years

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Segment Synopsis: One day when Jasmine was sixteen years old, her mother hadn’t returned after going out with her boyfriend the night before. Eventually, Jasmine’s aunt gathered her family together and broke the news that her mother had passed away in a car accident the night before. This experience had a huge effect on Jasmine, which she is still unpacking today. Since her mother’s death, Jasmine often carries a sense that something is going to go wrong and tends to anticipate that bad things may happen in her life again. After her mother passed, Jasmine decided to continue living in their apartment alone. Her aunts wanted her to move in with her father, and drama ensued, escalating to the point of police being called to the apartment. The management at her apartment allowed her to stay, and when she turned eighteen the apartment was signed under her name. Although her dad accepted the fact that she would not be moving in with him, he offered little financial support and Jasmine became financially independent. Jasmine currently lives in the same apartment with her husband and son, although she hopes to move soon.

Keywords: New York

27:05 - Initial Realizations and Contraction of COVID-19

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Segment Synopsis: Jasmine lives in a very dense community in New York City, and worries that people are not taking sufficient precautions to protect against covid. Jasmine remembers first hearing of covid towards the end of February and suspecting that its severity was being over-played in the news. Once it began spreading in the United States, it affected people heavily in her neighborhood. Both Jasmine and her neighbor’s husbands were hospitalized with covid, and her neighbors husband passed away. Jasmine’s husband Freddie became sick early, in the first week of lockdown. His symptoms began with a cough and escalated to a sore throat and fever. Jasmine herself contracted a fever, and when they both tested for the virus, the results came back positive. Jasmine recovered relatively quickly, but Freddie became steadily worse. Jasmine checked him into the hospital she works at for fear of dehydration, and after a CAT scan, they discovered that he had pneumonia in both lungs. Once the pneumonia diagnosis was confirmed, it was decided that Freddie had to be checked into the hospital. At this time rooms were incredibly scarce, and the hospital was full of people sick with covid. Jasmine’s job at the emergency department helped her get Freddie a room and he was quickly intubated and put on ventilation.

Keywords: COVID-19 (Disease)--Death; COVID-19--Family Member Contraction; New York

Subjects: Quarantine--America

34:41 - Transferring Hospitals and ECMO Treatment

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Segment Synopsis: Freddie’s lung collapsed twice, and the doctors were having a hard time keeping his vitals stabilized. Eventually they determined that in order for Freddie to survive he would need to be put on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine (ECMO). Jasmine’s hospital didn’t have ECMO machines, so they began calling other places. Because Freddie had been on ventilation for nine days, many places denied him due to criteria saying that ECMO patients could only be ventilated up to four or five days. Luckily, Jasmine knew the CEO of Bellevue Hospital which provides ECMO treatment, and they arranged for Freddie to be transferred there. Transferring Freddie proved to be very difficult, and they had to put him on a portable ventilator to stop him from coding in the ambulance on the way to Bellevue. Jasmine later found out that he ended up getting put on the ECMO machine in the ambulance on the way to the new hospital, because his oxygen levels had dropped to the 50s. Jasmine experienced some relief when Freddie was transferred because while he was in the ICU of the hospital that she works at, every code blue that she heard caused her to panic and think of Freddie.

Keywords: COVID-19--Family Member Contraction; Healthcare Worker; New York

Subjects: Quarantine--America

49:19 - Faith and Coping During COVID-19

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Segment Synopsis: Faith was very helpful to Jasmine and her family during this time. A friend of Jasmine’s provided her with a number to a prayer service and Jasmine would call every day for Freddie. At one-point Jasmine’s son began having nightmares. Jasmine called the prayer service and they gave her son a prayer to repeat. They would pray nightly together, and his nightmares eventually subsided. At the time she felt as though there was nothing that she could do besides pray and believe in the Lord. Jasmine had always been a believer, but her belief in God changed throughout this experience, and ultimately her faith has been strengthened and become more pronounced since Freddie’s recovery. Jasmine slept on the couch for the duration of Freddie’s time on ventilation, which ended up being around two months. She felt that she couldn’t sleep in their bed without him when she knew how much he was suffering. Her son was able to be somewhat distracted by homeschooling and video games, but that time was very difficult for both of them. Their support system of good friends and family as well as their faith ultimately helped them through the extremely trying time.

Keywords: COVID-19--Family Member Contraction; Healthcare Worker; Latinx Community; New York; Recovery--Coronavirus

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease)--Religious aspects; Quarantine--America

66:24 - Freddie’s Return Home

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Segment Synopsis: During Freddie’s hospital stay, Jasmine felt as though she was in the midst of a storm and there was no clear path out. Freddie’s treatment was tumultuous. He had an abundance of chest tubes, had to undergo emergency surgery, and even went into septic shock. Much of the hospital staff did not think that Freddie was going to survive. Eventually they were able to take him off of the ECMO machine, but they were still very concerned about stopping ventilation. Nurses would remind Jasmine that he was still critically ill despite some successes in his treatment. Still, Jasmine maintained her faith that things were going to be okay. Jasmine called the hospital over Memorial Day weekend and was shocked to find out that Freddie had been successfully removed from the ventilator. His oxygen levels improved immensely, and Freddie began recovering rapidly. Initially, Freddie didn’t understand what was happening and had no idea how long he had been hospitalized. He recalled dreams in which he was drowning or in water. Eventually the confusion subsided, and he moved to a rehabilitation center. He stayed there for one week and then was discharged to continue his recovery at home.

Keywords: COVID-19 (Disease)--Death; COVID-19 Survivor; COVID-19--Family Member Contraction; Healthcare Worker; New York; Recovery--Coronavirus

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease)--Religious aspects; Quarantine--America

77:30 - Recovery and Resuming Life after COVID-19

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Segment Synopsis: After his hospital stay, Freddie began recovering very quickly. While he was in treatment he lost 30lbs and a lot of strength. His physical and occupational therapy has been helping him regain some of his lost strength. Now, he can walk for 30 minutes on the treadmill and lift 15lb weights. Jasmine contends that a lot of his progress has to do with his determination to get better. One ongoing issue is that he is having trouble fully opening his fingers. This is especially frustrating because much of the professional work that he does is with his hands. Freddie was very grateful to Jasmine in light of this experience, calling her his angel. They are both immensely grateful for Jasmine’s position at the hospital, and think that if it weren't for her job, he would not have received the treatment that he needed, and likely would not have survived.

Keywords: COVID-19 Survivor; Healthcare Worker; Latinx Community; New York; Recovery--Coronavirus

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease)--Religious aspects; Quarantine--America