Ashley Pineda, a Dental Assistant major at Frederick Community College, knows all too well the pain that this pandemic has caused. Ashley grew up in a tight knit family, very close with her sister, her mother, and her father. Ashley was extremely close with her father, Enrique Pineda, who was the backbone of her family and the glue that stuck them together. He was a caretaker, a provider, and a protector. A caring father, a loving husband, and a respectable God-fearing man.
When COVID first hit, Ashley was working at a nursing home, so she was on the front lines while the rest of her family started working and going to school from home. “While I still had to go out to work every day and put my life on the risk, my biggest fear was coming in contact with the notorious coronavirus and passing it to my family.” In April of 2020, Ashley’s biggest fear came true. She contracted COVID-19, even though she had done everything in her power to remain safe. “I was grateful that I felt nothing compared to many others whom I witnessed suffering, but at the same time I was scared to pass it on to my loved ones.”
After being placed on quarantine for two weeks, then taking another test which came out negative, Ashley returned back to work believing that all of this was behind her. However, shortly after returning to work, her entire family got sick, and she was the only one healthy at that point. “My father was a very prideful man and never the type to go to the hospital, but this virus affected him like no other. Eventually he ended up going to the Frederick Memorial Hospital, two days after his birthday.”
Enrique was in the hospital for a week before being placed on a ventilator flown to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Mr. Pineda was in a coma for three months before passing away. “The worst part about COVID was knowing that he had to die by himself in the hospital room without any family members with him.
“Those three months we’re probably the worst months in my life because nobody knew anything about the virus, and we were seeing so many different outcomes. One moment we had hope, the next minute we didn’t.” Coping with loss is difficult, but in this COVID era, it’s been even harder. Often, the loss of life to the coronavirus is sudden, and family members are unable to be by their loved one’s side because of restrictions designed to stop the spread of infection.
“During those three months the only type of communication we were allowed with him was virtual Zoom calls. A week before he passed away, we were allowed to go in and see him after being informed by the doctors that he was reaching the limit of being on the ventilator and there wasn’t anything else that they could do for him.”
“At the funeral, it was very hard because COVID had limited the amount of people being able to attend, and it was so hard having to decide who was able to go or not.” The pandemic has stripped away many of the comforting aspects of funerals. No hugging or handshakes. Grieving relatives and friends are forced to sit in pews by themselves or with only one other person. Repasts where mourners gather to share a meal have been canceled.
They say that when it rains it pours, and not long after the passing of Enrique Pineda, Ashley’s mother was laid off due to her job closing. This placed an even larger burden on Ashley and her sister to have to step up to the plate and provide for their family. “My father he was the main provider for our family, he was more than just a provider though, he was the person who held our family together. We all relied on my father and now we are learning to do things for ourselves and learning to do things that we never had to do before.” He had always taken care of the bills, car insurance, health insurance, and now they are left with taking care of his investments and everything else that he left behind. Not to mention, Ashley is also a single mother, raising her five-year old son by herself.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into stark relief one of the great certainties of life: death. It’s been reported that the COVID related deaths have exceeded those of 9/11, the Vietnam War and, World War II combined. “You see on the news tragedies in different cases, and you never think that could happen to you or someone you know.” In the blink of an eye, their entire world was turned upside down. They lost a husband, father, and grandfather… but they will forever have the memories of him because he was such a good man to them… and those memories will live on in their hearts and minds for the rest of their lives. Rest in Peace Enrique Pineda.