Quentin and Stacy Blakley opened the ‘decontamination station’ in their home garage as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Georgia in March and never closed it. Mr Blakley, 45, an Atlanta firefighter based at the city’s international airport, uses it to protect his family from a job that exposes him to strangers on a daily basis. At the end of each 24-hour shift for air emergencies and medical calls, he returns home to South Fulton, Ga., And removes his uniform in the garage. No exceptions. He takes a shower away from Stacy, 45, and their four sons – ages 14, 12 and a set of 9-year-old twins – then throws his clothes into a laundry bag. Finally, Mr. Blakley walks into his house.
Quentin I work at the busiest airport in the world, which means I am in contact with a lot of people. I have to decontaminate myself before I can deal with my wife and sons. We have learned a lot more about how Covid-19 spreads since its launch, but there is still so much we don’t know. If we get a call at the airport, we have to pass hundreds of people, some up close, to reach this patient who needs help. Anyone could wear it. So, I’m just as careful and careful as possible to make sure I don’t bring anything home.
Stacy We all learned the term “frontline worker” during the pandemic. This is what Quentin has been doing for 15 years. And yes, it’s scary when you think of the environment he’s in for a 24 hour shift. As soon as the pandemic started, we set up the garage for him. I call it the decontamination station.
Stacy Quentin has high blood pressure and after finding blood clots in his legs, he was recently diagnosed with diabetes. Data shows that African Americans with pre-existing conditions are more susceptible to this virus. I never really told him about it, but it made my stress levels worse. I think, he’s my husband and the father of my four boys. I don’t like the term fear, but that’s what it was.
Stacy We were both dealing with stress, but we also relate it to our families.
Quentin I grew up watching my dad struggle with diabetes and having to take insulin shots.
Stacy My father had a stroke at 36 and died of a heart attack at 54.
Quentin There was also the fear speech. I had to sit the boys down and explain to them what the pandemic was. I told them that society had changed and we had to change too. I had to try to contain their fears. Like everyone else, they heard on television that 1,000 people had understood or 800 people had died. All they hear are numbers and death, and that shook them at first. And they said, “Daddy, you deal with the public, what does that mean to you?” And I said, “It means I have to do everything in my power to stay safe and protect you.”
Stacy The boys were real soldiers. We had to do something as a family. So we started cycling. I picked up my old 10 speed bike from my mom’s garage and we got it fixed. We walked around the neighborhood and the trails. This is now our new family outing.
Stacy I am a civil engineer. My job was eliminated because of Covid-19. It was in April. And now I have this new life as a teacher for my children who are at home. And honestly, it’s scary when you’re used to a paycheck every two weeks. At the same time, I always wanted my own engineering firm. I created it in 2016 as a safe space for everyone, especially women and people of color, but I really haven’t brought it to life until now. It’s called Douglas Consulting Group, after my father’s name. On the one hand, oh my God, I lost my job. On the other hand, oh my God, look at this opportunity to do this full time.