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Story | Community
16 June 2020

In her own words: "I don’t know if I can risk letting her go back to school"


Shereen Khaled, a mother of two and a member of the Communication Directorate, talks about her anxieties as life starts to go back to normal, with a daughter suffering from a respiratory condition

Daleela is her name. It means “guidance”, and she truly is the beacon that lights my way whenever I’m in doubt. Words can never describe what my daughter means to me, probably because mothers hold a full life experience within their hearts and minds, which can never be summed up in few words.

Her birth nearly seven years ago transformed our family. Like almost every couple, we experienced a radical change in our lives upon the arrival of our first baby. Suddenly, we were parents, and we were responsible of this tiny human being. From the day she was born, choosing what is best for her has been my number one priority – be it breastfeeding or feeding her nutritious foods, introducing early learning methods, helping her develop her social skills, and maintaining her well-being.

Image source: Christin Lola, via Shutterstock

From her third birthday, Daleela started to struggle with some health issues and it was something I never anticipated. She suffered from frequent colds, not unlike the rest of the children in her age group, but we soon began to notice more severe symptoms. And sometimes, her recovery wouldn’t last a week before she developed the same symptoms again.

Visits to pediatricians became more frequent. Most of the doctors agreed that she had developed a viral induced type of asthma, which only hits her body when she is exposed to viruses targeting the respiratory system. This type of infection cause spasms of the bronchial tubes that result in difficulty to breath normally. And since she used to going to school and being around other children, it was impossible to protect her from catching those infections. We depended heavily on bronchodilators to reduce her symptoms.

And it was through our regular visits to the doctors we learned that asthma, chest allergies, and other respiratory diseases are very common in both children and adults living in Qatar.

When my daughter’s health issues began, I started to struggle to sleep – insomnia – and suffered from nervous and psychological fatigue, which persisted for years. But all I could do was to hold on, to endure, for her sake. I realized the true meaning of the phrase: You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, my family and I have been following all the preventative precautions, adhering to home isolation and social distancing since the beginning of the pandemic, as we understand how serious it could get if a family member got infected with the virus and transferred it to our little girl.

Around the time the virus hit the country, I started working at Qatar Foundation (QF), in the Communications Directorate. QF was one of the first organizations to implement a work-from-home policy, which enabled me, as well as all my colleagues, to stay at home and take care of my family, keep my children safe, and help them with their remote learning, while allowing me to fulfill my daily work responsibilities in a flexible manner. And for that I’m truly grateful.

However, as the world starts to shift towards returning to normal life, with organizations resuming office operations and students going back to school, I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of doubt, constantly worrying about my daughter’s safety.

Image source: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH, via Shutterstock

I don’t know if I can risk letting her go back to school, and possibly exposing her to the virus. How will she resume studying? Will she continue with her online learning? Will her school be able to provide alternative solutions for her, as well as other high-risk students? So many questions that I have no answers for.

There are many people in our circle of friends and colleagues who are also at high risk or have children who suffer from similar health problems. And all of them share the same anxieties about returning to their workplaces and schools.

At the moment, all I can do is to continue taking all the necessary precautions and preventive measures, as well as to take care of our mental health and well-being as much as possible and wait for what the future will bring.

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