Georgia neurosurgeon returns to family after 11 months of living apart in pandemic

The pandemic brought tough choices for frontline health care workers and their families.

Their jobs put them at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus, and many worried about bringing the virus home to their families.

Marietta, Georgia, neurosurgeon Dr. Franklin Lin moved into a nearby hotel, thinking he would only need to live apart from his wife and kids for a couple of weeks.

Man in hospital scrubs stands outside picket fence in front of his home.

Dr. Franklin Lin, a Wellstar Kennestone neurosurgeon, spent 11 months apart from his family during the pandemic.

In March of 2020, as hospitals began to fill with patients battling a dangerous new virus, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital neurosurgeon Dr. Franklin Lin and his wife decided it would be safer for him to move out of their home and into a nearby hotel.

The Marietta couple had no idea at the time they would be apart for 11 months.

"It started out as a short-term solution," Dr. Lin says. 

Lin says he and his wife Annesia and their two children thought they would live apart for a couple of weeks.

It was a way, they told each other, to try to keep everyone safe.

"Because we knew this situation wasn't solely about us and our family, it was also about the community," Dr. Lin says. "If you would have told me last March that I would be gone a year, I would almost have gone into a sort of semi-depression thinking about it."

Lin, like many Americans, assumed the virus would disappear as quickly as it arrived.

Man leans over fence, handing his wife a birthday cake. She is smiling and standing with their two young children.

Wellstar Kennestone neurosurgeon Dr. Franklin Lin spent 11 months apart from his family during the pandemic. (Lin family photo)

"A couple of weeks turned into 3 weeks, 3 weeks turned into 4 weeks, and the pandemic just kept getting worse," he says. 

So, Lin would spend his shifts in the operating room and his free time connecting with his children over Zoom or over their fence.

He missed helping them with their homework and getting them ready for bed at night.

"I missed the time with my wife," Lin says.  "I missed the time with my dogs."

It wasn't until last December of 2020 when the FDA granted an emergency use authorization for two new COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, Dr. Lin began thinking about going back home.

 "When I got the vaccine, we were happy about that," he says.  "It was a milestone.  I got the second shot.  And then, after the second shot, I didn't come straight home."

His wife Annesia got vaccinated, too. 

Lin family photo

Wellstar Kennestone Hospital neurosurgeon Dr. Franklin Lin stands outside his family's fence, at a birthday celebration for his 6-year-old son.

Dr. Lin wanted to make sure that, as a fully vaccinated person, he couldn't unknowingly transmit the virus to others. 

In February, when it became clear the risk of asymptomatically spreading the virus after vaccination was very low, he came home.

He had been away for 11 months, and says, the first night back was uneventful, in a good way.

"We sort of picked up where we left off," he says. "I went home. There was, "Yeah, Daddy's home!'"

There was a little bit of celebration, a little dinner.  The next day, it was literally like it never happened." 

Dr. Lin says he is sensitive to the fact they had the means to live separately, when many families may not have that option.

Still, for them, he feels it was the safest option.

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