Frontline Fathers: Physicians on Keeping Their Kids Safe

Jun/19/2021 / by Heena Kausar
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Dr. Bilal Khan, Specialist in Pulmonary Critical Care

At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, Doctor Bilal Khan called his best friend, gave him details of his bank accounts, and explained to him what needs to be done in case he catches the virus and dies.

Khan is a specialist in pulmonary critical care and practices at Livingston in St. Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey. He and his wife, a nephrologist, found out that they were pregnant with a second child in January 2020.

“I gave him security codes for all of my bank accounts,” he said. This allowed him to focus at work and take care of other people’s families, he said. As a pulmonary care specialist, he regularly saw Covid-19 patients from the beginning of the pandemic.

“We were the main physicians taking care of the patients on the ventilators,” he said. In the very beginning of the pandemic, his wife and son moved to Queens to live with her parents.

He would visit his family sometimes but only to see them from outside. He especially remembers one such meeting with his son. He kept his hand on the window outside and his son kept his hand on the window from inside.

“I saw him from outside of the window and we were touching hands through the window. It was like a really sad scene out of a movie,” he said.

His daughter was born in August after which his wife and kids moved back with him. He continues to follow strict rules while entering his home.

“Before I left the hospital, I would change my clothes and clean my phone,” he said. Once home, he would change again in the garage, take a shower and “then I would go out and see my children.”

Ensuring the safety of their family has been a tough challenge for healthcare workers, who have been on the frontline of dealing with a global pandemic that has so far killed over 580,000 people in America.

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Dr. Shivam Shah, Interventional Radiologist

Becoming a father has changed Doctor Shivam Shah’s perspective on life. He said he is now far more careful than what he was earlier. Shah, an interventional radiologist with Main Line Health, had his first child in September. 

“I’m a little bit more scared now about than I was before, because now I know that I’m going home to someone who I can impact,” he said.

Shah and his wife, who is also a doctor, live with their new born son in Philadelphia. After his son was born, there were weeks when he wouldn’t see his son and wife despite being in the same house. Whenever he saw a patient that potentially exposed him to Covid-19, Shah would sleep in a different room for four to five days.

“If I saw a COVID-19 patient, I wouldn’t see the baby for four or five days. Just to make sure that I don’t have any symptoms of the virus,” Shah said. “There is no running away from going to the hospital. But at least if I know that I was exposed to any patients, then I would keep myself away.” 

Most of Shah’s family has still hasn’t met his son and have only seen him on FaceTime and video calls. When Shahs found out in December 2019 that they were pregnant then they planned a big baby shower. But then the pandemic hit, 

“Then we basically did not do anything,” Shah said.

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Dr. Ashvin Mathew, Interventional Cardiologist

Doctor Ashvin Mathew, an interventional cardiologist and his wife, a field nurse practitioner in pediatrics, always wanted to have three kids. So, when they found out that they were pregnant for the third time in January, they were elated. But this period was also marked with uncertainty, and fears over the safety of their kids.

Mathew lived in constant fear of getting the virus back home to his family. “Obviously, as a parent, you don’t want to be the reason your kids get sick. You don’t want them to get sick period. But you don’t want to be the reason that they get sick,” he said.

One of the most challenging things while taking care of the kids during the pandemic, was to make them understand that they won’t be able to see their grandparents for sometime, said Mathew. “We tried to make it a point to FaceTime with them every day for a few hours and spend time with them that way, but because they were not seeing their grandparents, that was the hardest, hardest challenge,” he said.

For Mathew, who works at Temple University in Philadelphia, the biggest learning from the pandemic has been to cherish every moment he has with his kids. 

“That was a constant fear. What if I started feeling sick at work and don’t come home, and don’t get to see my kids,” he said. “So the biggest lesson for me was to just cherish every moment you have with the kids.”

This article appears in the June issue of SEEMA Magazine, check the rest of it out here!

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