The loneliness of quarantine – even for those surrounded by family

Quarantine means isolation. This is something we must all take very seriously.

A MAN pets his cat as he sits by the window of his Jerusalem apartment during a nationwide quarantine in March.  (photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
A MAN pets his cat as he sits by the window of his Jerusalem apartment during a nationwide quarantine in March.
(photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
 Finally the day has come. I am out of quarantine, out of isolation. I am now free of the coronavirus. 
Anyone who knows me can imagine what a challenge it was for me, of all people, to be confined to my four walls, instead of running around as I normally do. Unable to command my team of ZAKA volunteers at the site of an accident, to provide emergency first aid to the wounded. Unable to busy myself with my life’s work, the Ezrat Achim organization, which lends medical equipment free of charge to people in need. After all, it is this work with the wider community that gives me life, purpose and keeps me happy.
But quarantine means isolation. This is something we must all take very seriously. 
For weeks, I stayed at home in Beit Shemesh, with my wife and family, who also tested positive for COVID. I played with my daughters, talked with my sons. I enjoyed quality time with my beloved Nechami, eating three meals a day with my dear family.... I had almost forgotten the feeling. There were times when we felt poorly, but we overcame the virus.
And what was the lesson I took away from this enforced period of isolation? 
Every phone call, text or email of encouragement that I received made me so happy. How much I enjoyed hearing a friend or acquaintance pass by my window and call out “Avreimi, stay strong!” Every delivery that was brought to our door, however small, brought a smile to my lips and joy to my heart. 
My children loved opening the parcels, looking excitedly to see what was inside – sweets, a game, a cake. My wife was so happy to receive the many bouquets of flowers that were delivered. And I read each and every note that accompanied the deliveries, gaining strength and support from the words of love and encouragement. I was surprised to find that these small gestures lifted my mood so much. 
Being isolated is depressing beyond words. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not that I was bored. Far from it. I carried on working almost as if nothing had happened. I wrote e-mails, made telephone calls, issued instructions to our volunteers. 
But I was alone. I was isolated. I was depressed.
I am not some poor guy. I have always been told that I am the happiest person in the room. I have so many good friends, thank God, and countless acquaintances. I am the head of a family, 47 years of age, with a wonderful wife, six children and five grandchildren. I belong to a wonderful, caring community where everyone knows me, and I know everyone.
Surely, you would think, here is a person who doesn’t need support and encouragement. But there I was, isolated at home and eternally grateful for every message, every warm greeting and parcel that came my way during this challenging time. It meant so much to me that people cared.
What must it be like for single parents, living in tiny apartments – how do they cope with the isolation of quarantine? How does the elderly widower feel, knowing he must remain cooped up inside, unable to get out to the stores or to socialize, because he too is in quarantine? 
How does a family of six or seven children manage in quarantine, without the support system of family and community with which I am blessed? What if they are struggling financially, living in impossibly cramped conditions, maybe even with additional challenges, such as children suffering from ADHD? The list of possibilities goes on and on.
How much more so do they need the same warm support that I received, the kind words, the care packages delivered to their door? 
One good thing about contracting COVID-19 is that I have learned the hard way how vital support and encouragement are to those in isolation, to help nurture both physical and emotional well-being. And as a recovered coronavirus patient, I will now be able to personally help those with the virus. 
I have come to the conclusion that I have not being doing enough. I am not underestimating what I, together with all the dedicated Ezrat Achim volunteers, have done for coronavirus patients and those in isolation. But it is not enough.
So, I leave quarantine with a new sense of determination – whatever I have done to date to help others was not enough and, from now on, I will try to do more, so much more. 
As long as the coronavirus remains with us, let us all pay more attention to the sick and isolated – even if it seems to us that they are managing fine and do not need our help. 
Trust me. I know!
The writer has been a ZAKA volunteer for 20 years and is founder of the Ezrat Chaim free medical equipment loan organization. If you know of anyone living alone who would benefit from regular phone calls or if you would like to volunteer to make regular contact with the elderly and isolated via the ZAKA “Don’t Leave Them Behind” initiative, please contact [email protected]