Since starting Muay Thai 17 years ago, Jackie Hom has amassed quite a few life achievements. Despite taking an eight-year break from the sport, she has nine amateur fights, two kids, and a gym. She also works as registered nurse and has been one for the last 12 years. As someone who seems to be juggling it all, she’s been fighting something else as of late that’s entirely new to her and the world: the COVID-19 epidemic.
“I work in the Bay Area of California [of San Francisco], primarily in Santa Clara county. This was one of the first counties, after New York, to be hit the hardest with coronavirus cases,” Jackie informs. “This was also one of the first three counties in the U.S. to enforce shelter-in-place.”
In Santa Clara county, there are currently 1,793 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 65 deaths (time of writing: April 16, 2020). The city of San Francisco was ordered to “shelter in place” from March 16, and the order recently extended to last until at least May 3.
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Because Jackie works in a county hospital, she is a mandated disaster worker. “That means I have to report to duty if COVID-19 gets out of control,” Jackie begins. “That being said, since I work at two hospitals, I get called into duty to the area of great need.” Every shift for Jackie requires a many precautions from the hospital. “As I walk into the hospital, my temperature has to be checked,” says Jackie, “and I am screened for any illnesses. We are having to wear the same mask all day, in an effort to conserve supplies.” This PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) shortage has been a hot topic of discussion from official health organizations and the U.S. government. Many people on the front-lines don’t have assess to enough PPE while they’re treating COVID-19-positive patients. “When we have a COVID-19 patient, one nurse takes care of the patient, and another nurse has to be outside to make sure all the PPE is placed on properly,” Jackie discloses, “The patient’s nurse has to use the same N95 mask for the entire shift.” Someone Jackie works with had contracted the virus but has, thankfully, since recovered.
With the many issues the virus has caused, the U.S. government’s reaction to the pandemic had only added to the list of problems people are suffering with, according to Jackie. “The reaction was delayed for too long, which caused a delay in our healthcare system to be prepared” reprimands Jackie. “The shortage in supplies in turn contributed to the hysteria related to hoarding of toilet paper and hand sanitizer”.
Moreover, small business owners like Jackie are suffering tremendously during this time. “Small businesses, like ours, are closed, which means we are not able to make any money,” Jackie sighs. “Our lease, utilities, and other expenses still have to be paid.” Jackie co-owns Ascend Muay Thai and Fitness. She does whatever is needed around the gym, which includes teaching classes. “It’s filled with uncertainty,” confesses Jackie. “It’s hard to believe that gyms will be open again soon. Muay Thai has a lot of partner work and involves copious amounts of sweat. It doesn’t seem like we would be able to train as before, knowing that anyone could have it. We are trying to figure out how we are going to keep the doors open at the gym. We definitely miss everyone.” The gym has been open for three years, and has spent that time building the community in the gym so she would be able to get back in the ring. “I was gearing up to be competitive again,” Jackie adds, “This global pandemic halted that plan, which has shifted my focus into being available for work and to staying healthy so I can continue helping.”
When Jackie heard about what was going on in Italy, with people being turned away because there weren’t enough supplies to help, Jackie knew she had to do everything she could to not let that happen. “I am healthy and I try to take care of myself as best I can. I’m in a better position to help. I kept thinking of my parents being turned away because they’re too old to be saved,” relates Jackie. “I’ve been working every chance I get”. Because Jackie is a pediatric nurse, she hasn’t seen a lot of cases in her department, but every part of her hospital is affected. “I volunteered to work in other areas of the hospital with the greatest need.”
Outside of work, Jackie still does her best to help her community in other ways. “I also volunteer at my church,” Jackie says humbly. “We had a ton of efforts going towards people who are affected.” What’s Jackie’s main area of focus? “I direct a group of people to help spread positively into our neighboring community,” Jackie states. “This is done through a site called Nextdoor and we lead them to our Echo Compassion team, which can help anyone experiencing hardship from the virus, or any hardship whatsoever. It’s so easy for people to settle in depression, anger, sadness, or whatever they are struggling through. But showing compassion for others helps them see that there are still things happening around them.”
Aside from showing and receiving compassion, Jackie says the shelter-in-place has brought what’s really valuable to light. “Life in the Bay area moves very fast. There are things that we most important that we may take for granted,” Jackie explains. “Making time for family, friends, nature, the environment, our health… [they’re] all priorities that may have been put aside. Once those things weren’t available, we started to realize what’s important.” Jackie can account for this experience first-hand. “At home, we’ve been able to sit down as a family for dinner. [Before], we fed our kids at the gym, or before their kids class, then ate a quick dinner before bed. The kids [usually] spend most of their time at school and the gym. Now, schools are closed and the gym is closed. We have spent more time doing things as a family, like hiking and riding our bikes. We were finally able to teach our eight-year old how to ride his bike without training wheels,” Jackie beams.
Jackie believes that many have adapted to the current lifestyle that’s been put in place due to government mandate. “We are actually flattening the curve,” Jackie observes. “Our hospitals are definitely not as impact as they used to be, so that’s great. The scary part is what’s going to happen when our shelter-in-place is lifted?” This seems to be the light at the end of the tunnel for many people in the U.S.
Jackie’s hospital has received a lot of donations, and it makes Jackie feel a very strong sense of community. “This is definitely a time when we are stronger together,” Jackie says proudly. “If there is anything you can do, from volunteering, sewing, or even going on a grocery run for a neighbor, do it. No matter what you are experiencing, someone else out there probably feels the same or worse, and everyone could use a little help sometimes. Especially now.”
Thank you, Jackie, for everything you’re doing during this time. Thank you for being selfless and putting the needs of the world before your own.