by Dorcas Daboni | 2 July 2020 |
I looked in the mirror. A strange-looking creature looked back at me.
It had on a yellow gown that covered every inch of its body. Gloves on its hands and goggles over its eyes. A shower cap sort of thing on its head, and a shield over its face. And of course, the notorious N95 suction cup of a mask over its mouth and nose.
I had to laugh. You could hardly tell it was me underneath everything!
As I peeled off my gloves and cleaned my face shield to go to the next room, I couldn’t help but wonder if my patients had difficulty identifying me. Whether it mattered to them who I was, or if every nurse just looked the same right now and they were happy just to have someone there to take care of them? Did they find me as strange-looking as I looked to myself?
I mentioned that to my friend on the phone. “They’re probably not worried about who you are or what you look like right now. They’ve got COVID-19. You may look kinda scary, sis, but they’re more scared of the disease! Speaking of which,” she added, “aren’t you scared? I am scared for you being there with all those patients who are so sick.”
Her question pierced my heart. Was I scared? I told her I wasn’t, and that’s how I felt. All that mattered to me at the moment was that I helped people live.
Here I was, miles away from my home, working as a first responder for COVID-19 cases. So many of my coworkers were out with the virus already. But I wasn’t scared. It wasn’t that I felt I was invincible—on the contrary, I knew I could as easily catch it as some of my coworkers had. I didn’t want to catch it. I saw patients suffering through this infection daily, fighting to hold on to life, only to watch them drown.
I knew it was real, but I wasn’t scared. I was there to help.
It’s Cold in Here
The next day I woke up and picked up my phone, as is my habit. Every media and news source was covering the story of George Floyd’s murder. I watched the clips again and again.
Memories flooded my mind of times I, or someone close to me, had come into contact with the law. Memories like the police breaking into my brother’s house while he and his girlfriend and their daughters lay fast asleep. I remember seeing the broken windows.
I remember when my dad was followed by multiple police cars and a helicopter. They pointed guns at him as he lay on the ground. Later he would receive a letter of apology in the mail. They had the wrong guy.
I noticed I was shivering. Shaking. I turned the air conditioning down. I must be cold, I thought.
Later that day I drove to Harlem to pick up an old friend. As I was driving, I saw a police car with sirens on. I pulled over and the car whizzed past me. I started shaking again. Again, I turned down the car’s air conditioner and opened the window.
That evening as my friend and I ate dinner in my hotel room, I told her my experience from the day. She said, “Yeah, I know. Sometimes I’m scared to be black too.”
That’s when it hit me. It wasn’t the cold that had me shaking. It was fear.
Living in the United States as a black person is scary. I fear for my life and I fear for the lives of my loved ones, especially my father and brothers. I am more scared to live as a black person in the United States than I have ever feared COVID-19.
I felt relieved, in a sort of way, to be going into a patient’s room as a nurse completely covered. A nurse that didn’t look black or white, just a nurse. A nurse who desperately wanted them to live. I felt relief knowing that my patients had more pressing concerns than to be worried about what my skin color might be underneath all my personal protective equipment.
It felt like that PPE was protection from more than just COVID-19. There are no gowns that I can wear to hide my skin color from others when I leave my job. There are no masks to cover my lips and nose, to hide my features. I don’t want to hide my identity. But the honest truth is, I fear there may be people out there who are more afraid of my skin color than they are of dying from COVID-19.
That unsettling truth is what I see when I look in the mirror—and it scares me.
I don’t write this to be political. I don’t want to impose my views on anyone. I write this to remind my Christian brothers and sisters that Jesus loves us all.
Pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ, but more importantly, be there for them. Ask God how He can help you show love to those who may need it at this time. And if you are hurting for whatever reason, remember that above all, God loves you! And He is perfect!
So I will tell you the same thing I tell myself: there’s no need to be afraid, because perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).
Dorcas Daboni is a nurse. She is passionate about serving youth and young adults, and also empowering communities to make better health decisions. She writes from Edgewater, NJ, where she is working as a first responder.