My Mother Is a Nurse on the Front Line, and Every Day Terrifies Me

Right now, she’s doing what medical professionals everywhere are doing all over the world: Saving lives

J.Jackson
LEVEL
Published in
5 min readMar 30, 2020

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Photo illustration. Photo courtesy of the author.

I am not just somebody’s son. I am the son of somebody you may have never had to see until right now.

My mother has been a nurse in the greater Boston area for three decades. She has worked across every role in health care, from the emergency room to home hospices. Right now, during the coronavirus pandemic, she is doing what medical professionals everywhere are doing all over the world: saving lives.

The World Health Organization labeled 2020 the “Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.” It’s turning out to be more prophetic than we realized. You probably know a health care worker on the front lines right now, whether it’s a doctor, a nurse, an EMT, or a pharmacist. If not personally, you are no more than a degree removed. And more likely than not, that person is dealing with extreme circumstances, long hours, an onslaught of stressors, and dwindling resources to keep up with the demand.

I used to fear my mother’s aging and what that might mean. She broke three ribs last summer yet still worked full-day shifts until the pain, according to her, “got a little uncomfortable.” I’ve seen her weather a dormant tumor and a ruptured artery, bury a daughter, and raise children as her own in different countries. With her nurturing, they have built villages, both near and far. My mom cared for those who needed warmth, a hot meal, or even a place to sleep. She is powerful, but she is not impervious to pain. We find convenient ways to make matriarchs inhuman by overemphasizing their selfless actions. By doing so, we remove their human nature.

Here’s the brutal truth: If my mother contracted Covid-19 on the job, she would have to use her sick days to recover. This contractual negligence is a reality for millions of essential workers we have historically failed structurally. This country runs on people who are rendered invisible; you never need them until you cannot imagine life without them. It is a cruel irony to put the weight of a system on someone without acknowledging that their back may break.

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J.Jackson
LEVEL
Writer for

Polymathic tendencies. If there’s oxtail involved, I’m probably en route.