Sep 27, 2021 | Grace
First of all, in March 2020, I was not yet an employee of HDGH. I was a Professor at St. Clair College and privileged to be educating future RPNs. I was also working at Children’s Hospital of Michigan as a contingent PACU RN. My twin sister and I celebrated our 50th birthday in 2020 on a beach in Mexico. We had planned and saved for well over a year. We went back and forth about if we should go and then once arrived on March 11th, we found ourselves coming home early after the Prime Minister spoke on March 16th. Yes, we had T-shirts made, glasses, matching outfits, you name it. This was our first trip away together. However, we are also are first and foremost healthcare professionals of 30 years. I am an RN and Dee my twin sister is a PSW for the Alzheimer’s Society, working in their day away program at Huron Lodge. As soon as our PM spoke we both said “we need to go home”, “we need to help”. Upon returning home I quickly found that I was now teaching full time in the virtual world. Next COVID-19 had passed through our PACU staff at CHM. I worked three shifts in Detroit as many of my colleagues were at that time required to self-isolate. During the beginning of the first wave, I was climbing the walls wanting to help. I reached out to the Windsor Mask force, did mask research for them, and then hand bagged homemade masks and caps for all our consolidating RPN students who were now online and out of clinical. Then the call came from our community hospitals asking experienced nurses for help. I immediately sought approval from my CHM manager who said “support your community, Deb….” and granted me leave for the pandemic. Before I entered into Nursing, I was a candy-striper at Grace Hospital and had worked in the ICU at HDGH when on Ouellette. I also had numerous teaching experiences at HDGH and was honoured to accept a Temp CPM / IPAC part-time position, which quickly turned full-time. Then my new journey with HDGH began. Our leaders asked for volunteers who would be deployed to assist our community. And so I put my name in. I participated in community swabbing with EMS, LTC swabbing, employee and patient swabbing, migrant worker swabbing, Cerner education (like that was all we needed amidst a pandemic right?). Then in December, I had the privilege of being deployed to St. Clair Village. I worked with an amazing team. We put in long hours, supporting staff and each other as the death toll rose at St. Clair Villages throughout the Christmas holidays. I missed my family but they were wonderfully supportive. My kids said, “mom, go to help those who are in need. Next, it was onto Augustine Villa and living in a hotel in Kingsville away from my family, working out of a trailer in the community. I taught virtually, sometimes standing on my head practically to get a WIFI signal during teams lectures…. It was all hands on deck assisting our team with community support. I had tremendous support from my family and friends, and I now had my new family, HDGH with me fighting COVID-19. At night, I would listen to inspirational stories from other nurses, uplifting music, and journal by days into reports for the hospital. We are so excited when we got the call to be vaccinated. Next, we were able to vaccinate residents which was an amazing gift to my spirit after fighting COVID-19 for so long. I was away from HDGH for a total of seven weeks.When I was approached to be interviewed by the Windsor Star, for Nurses’ Week it was very humbling. I have worked alongside so many amazing staff members, I truly wanted to name every single one. I meant what I said that I have never felt so fulfilled as a Nurse. Sure, there was a lot of adrenaline, death, darkness, and fear, but serving the needs of others is where I found my joy and hope. Witnessing our community and hospital and former students rise made me a proud human. Sometimes, things happen for a reason. When an operations position was posted for HDGH, I knew it was a potential time for me to change career paths. I was thrilled to accept and continue to be supported and mentored by our amazing HDGH team. I have learned so much and grown as a Nurse and I am so pleased to be a permanent HDGH employee now. I recently had a t-shirt made with the HDGH tagline, “Changing Lives Together” placed on the back, and that line is what will keep me here at HDGH…
My name is Michelle Gallagher. I’m a social worker at HDGH’s Regional Children’s Centre’s Intensive Treatment Services program. Our program was one of the many that were closed/adjusted during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and many of our staff were redeployed throughout the hospital. Initially, management looked for volunteers. As an only child, with parents who fell into the “high risk” category I was hesitant and did not volunteer. Soon after the initial group were redeployed, my coworker and I were selected and informed we would be redeployed. I can remember being told on a Wednesday afternoon and asking where I would be going, what I would be doing, when the change would happen – each question answered with “I don’t know”. It’s hard to put into words how unsettling this was as a person who likes to be able to plan, to know what to expect. By Friday morning we were in a full-day training on lifts, feeding, and bathing, all the ways we might be called on to help nursing staff. Midway through the day, a handful of us were pulled out and informed that we would be part of the Family Support Team – what that meant exactly was unclear. By Monday, we were on our new units.My coworker and I were sent to Inpatient Rehab third floor (RH3) and given some information on what the patients and staff were going through. We did our best to stick together. We did our best to make sense of the new terms and rules, and world we were thrust into. To say it felt isolating and hard would be an understatement. Seeing what others were going through added guilt to my already full emotional plate. How could I complain when others have it worse? How could I admit to struggling when, at that time, the community was rallying behind us as “essential workers” and being so thankful for the work we were doing? All of these questions, and all of these feelings swirled around for me. I knew that at this point I lived alone, was distancing from all of my people, and now was pulled away from the work family I had. Looking back, I have so much empathy for spring 2020 me – but honestly, even more than that I have pride. Because somewhere along the way, I leaned in. I leaned in to the new people, new place, new role. I leaned in to smiling with my eyes so that staff and patients could see my smile even if I was in multiple layers of mask and shield and other PPE. I adjusted my focus to the staff, patients and families of RH3 and how I could support them. The job shifted and changed in the months I was in it: from securing the tangible things patients needed as outside belongings couldn’t be brought in, to communicating with families to make sure they knew how to contact their loved ones, and that there were people inside this hospital doing our best to lift spirits, take care of their people and show the compassion that HDGH is known for, to virtual iPad visits (few things will hit you in the heart like witnessing a grandparent get to see their grandchild after weeks apart), to eventual Courtyard Visits (and all the most beautiful reunions) and outdoor walks to let patients feel sunshine on their faces. I met and worked alongside some of the best people; people I never would have met if it weren’t for the pandemic and redeployment. There are a handful of patients who still hold places in my mind and heart. There were conversations and moments that I know I will carry with me for years to come. Mid-summer, I was informed that I would be gradually transitioning back to my home position – and the mix of emotions came flooding back. The transition was a whirlwind in my efforts to catch up at RCC and keep up on RH3 on the days I was still there. What felt like not long later, I watched the all staff e-mails come in that RH3 was in outbreak. It was like a punch to the gut. Immediately I reached out to the people who had become my extended work family during redeployment. There was nothing I could offer or do, except to let them know that I saw how strong they were. I experienced their resilience and determination first hand. And to let them know that others across the campus were cheering them on as they faced this battle.You see, that’s been the magic of this whole pandemic experience for me as an ‘essential worker’. There have been times when this has been scary. It has been messy and complicated. It’s been incredibly emotional – feeling lonely, isolated, tired, proud and strong (and roughly a million other things in between). But now, a year after my initial redeployment, I can tell you that I feel more connected to those who were redeployed with me, and more connected to the friendly faces I recognize when out and about on campus. The experience built and strengthened ties across professions and departments. I can see the ways this brought corners of our campus closer together. And, I can tell you, it has made me SO proud of my HDGH family.
Sep 28, 2021 | Grace
The Centre for Problem Gambling and Digital Dependency (CPGDD) is what I call my “work home”. When the pandemic hit, I seriously thought that my department would still stay open and just operate differently, but to my dismay, this is not what had transpired. The majority of our team was redeployed to various areas. We were quickly trained on new positions; to me, this was all happening so fast like a bad dream. Although I was not thrilled with the idea of doing something way outside of my comfort zone, I was raised to not give up, to keep my head above water and tread the best way I knew how. I was redeployed twice, the first time at inpatient care at Emara and the second at the Mental Health and Addiction Urgent Care Centre which was a brand-new initiative. Amazing staff were everywhere; I saw strength where I hadn’t stopped to see the strength before. It brought comfort to me knowing that people were just trying to survive and get through this just like I was and that I was not alone. Both of these experiences pushed my limits. I remember crying on the daily before I would go in for my shifts as I was so frustrated with what was going on and how I was going to manage to get through this. I contemplated going off work on stress leave on multiple occasions but couldn’t bring myself to do it; there was no reason why I couldn’t very well use the skills that I have spent so much time instilling in my own clients. I called people I trusted for support and leaned on those closest to me to vent to. I turned to my fur-babies, Maverick & Duke. When I cried, I talked to them and told them what was happening, and they just licked my face or cuddled with me, which in turn helped me feel better. I remember experiencing a mishmash of feelings including anger, frustration, confusion, sadness, powerlessness, anxiety, stress, value, optimism, exhaustion, nervousness and numbness. Depending on the day, my feelings could ebb and flow like a roller-coaster ride only to crash at the end of the day. It was so exhausting to hear about COVID-19 day in and day out, whether at home or at work; I just couldn’t escape it. I tried my best to re-direct my attention to something that would distract me and found peace in watching Christmas movies. My daily dose of Christmas movies was my saving grace and coping strategy. Christmas, to me is all about family, friends, food and fun; it reminds me of a happier time. I kept my Christmas tree up as the lights brought me joy. The movies themselves were filled with positive stories that ended in love and happy times. Not being able to see my loved ones during this unfathomable time (the way I was used to anyways) was difficult for me and so I had to fill what I was missing with something else that kept me sane. I also started to take on a Pinterest project of making wooden painted Christmas trees to keep me busy and share with others. I was fortunate enough to be able to earn an income during the pandemic and that was something that I never took for granted. Even though at times I wished that I was not working, or envied others who were able to work from home, I enjoyed going to work as my colleagues and friends were there as well and we could still see each other and have meals together (while socially distanced) while on shift; this was something that I looked forward to. At the end of the day (despite the ongoing pandemic), I can say that I really learned a lot during the pandemic days. I now believe that I am stronger than I give myself credit for. I managed to push myself to power through the hard times and to use resiliency to not give up. I am a tough cookie and will continue to be. Just being present and not focusing on what would happen days, weeks, months or years down the line is what helped me put one foot in front of the other while I tried to help others get through this as well. I also learned that HDGH is definitely an organization solidified in unity and we do not back down from a fight; we become empowered to do better. We are a force to be reckoned with. We adjust our sails to suit the needs of greater good. I felt safe with our leadership and that we were in good hands. Although I did not agree with everything that was being done, I had an understanding that what was being done was for everyone’s safety. In hindsight, having gone through (and continue to go through) this experience allows me to believe that should a pandemic ever occur again during our lifetime, that we have the ability to reflect on the present and use those lessons to help us all get through the next hurdle (whatever that may be).
“Be Scared and Do it Anyway!”I am somewhat ashamed to admit that when the pandemic was first declared I thought, “Here we go again,” and largely thought it was “just another flu”. I can also say that my thoughts have changed! At the time, I was working for a General and Thoracic Surgeon here in Windsor, and when HE stopped coming in and cut the office hours down to once a week and phone follow-ups, I started to pay attention! Up to this point I had spent most of my 40 years here on earth running away from myself, and when the government said that I had no choice but to stay home with me, myself and I, as long as we were all from the same household, I was petrified. I was about 18 months into a good solid recovery from alcohol addiction and I thought, what I am going to do without seeing people, going to meetings and distracting myself with friends and relationships that may or may not have been good for my wellbeing?!?! I was terrified of relapsing without my support network, and my disease was happy to start talking to me about it too. I had already lost my dream job, my marriage, my friends and my family and was now well on my way out of the pits of my own personal hell, I knew I could never go back there so I had to arrest my fears and do whatever it took to stay safe and well. Enter Zoom…When it was first suggested to me that I start attending online meetings, I thought there was NO WAY I was going to sit on camera looking at myself for an hour, but my fear quickly crept in and it was do or die time. So I jumped into action and I started up my home group’s weekly meeting and spread the word, along with a few of my friends in other groups, and so evolved the Windsor Essex daily online recovery meetings. Forget Everything And Run, or Face Everything And Rise!I could no longer fill my days with coffee dates with ANYONE or needless shopping (ok my needless shopping is still there but it’s less and more thought out now!) or just everyday nonsense and static that served no positive purpose in my life. So I went to work, came home, reignited my love of cooking, and worked on my recovery! The best part was that I got to know MYSELF. I had many conversations with myself and the universe about life and what it really meant to me. I was no longer spending time with negative people doing things that possibly made me feel uncomfortable or less than, just so that I was not alone. I began doing things that I enjoyed, like the aforementioned cooking and baking, – oh so much baking – sewing, reading, colouring, and walking. ALONE, just me and my headphones. I got back to basics and I was loving it! I was becoming much happier, calmer and CONFIDENT in my own skin!Before working for the surgeon, I had worked at the same place for over 18 years; as my alcoholism got worse, so did my attendance and eventually I was asked to leave I LOVED my job! It was who I was. I was not confident with much about myself then, but I knew I was a Rock Star at my job, and I really didn’t know what I was going to do with my identity gone. So I drank a bit more, until one day I had had enough. My fulltime job became recovery until the day my phone rang. When I saw the Doctor’s name come up on my phone, I truly knew that by answering that call it would change my life, and it did! My job with the surgeon was an absolute gift from God! He only needed me for a year to fill a Maternity leave, but I knew that’s what I needed. I was back in the healthcare game and I was doing well. As part of my recovery I had attended the Concurrent Disorders Program here at HDGH in 2019. Although it was not a great time in my life I could feel the positive energy and atmosphere here. I continuously saw some of my former coworkers who had come over in 2013 and they were not only happy to see me, not knowing what I was doing here back then, but they seem genuinely happy to be working here. I thought “I really what to be a part of this family again”! I had applied a few times, but as anyone knows, timing is everything. When my time with the surgeon was done I took what I could get until what I wanted was available to me. I didn’t have to wait long! I started working with a new doctor at a family practice and on my third day of training the person who I was supposed to be replacing decided she wanted to stay and I was let go. I was in the parking lot, coffee in hand, outside the office at 8:00 am on a Monday morning when my new boss called to tell me this new; I was rather irritated to say the least. I told to myself that I had two choices: go home and cry or go home and work! So I worked. I made calls, sent emails and sent in applications! Within five days I got the call. I was invited to a Zoom interview with HDGH and I could not have been happier! Within two weeks I was hired and I was home again! This was a literal dream come true for me! I had originally been employed by HDGH in 2000 and then decided to remain at the original location in 2013. In hindsight, I guess I am happy I did because it gave me a new appreciation of coming back into the fold!Life today for me is much more meaningful. I try to not take anything for granted! Nothing is promised. I have experienced great loss, great sadness, but also great triumph in my life! During this pandemic I have become more aware of myself and my purpose in this life time. I have learned that I am the most important person in MY life and if I am not well I cannot be of any use to others. I have learned that there is very little purpose for the guilt and shame and fear of my past now. It only serves to hold me back and cause pain. I am human, I make mistakes and bad choices along with every person out there. The difference today is that I figure out where I went wrong and I correct it, move forward and grow. Fear ruled my life for as long as I can remember, fear of everything! I could not let go and be free to be my authentic self. I felt held back my whole life, but I was the one that put those barriers in front of me. Today when I feel fear, I just do it anyways, within reason though, cause you will still never catch me sky diving or holding a snake, but I no longer fear ridicule or rejection in the same paralyzing way as I used to. I feared being alone. So much so that I had been in very bad relationships with others, family, friends, and partners. I would allow others to treat me with such disregard that it was crushing and added to my self-loathing. I somehow thought I was such a terrible person that it’s all that I deserved. I figured it was the price to pay and I had to put up with it and it was better than being alone! Today I know better, and I respect myself to put up the boundaries and if you can’t treat me with the same kindness and respect I treat you, well then I just don’t have a place for you anymore. There are some who have had a hard time with the new me not being a door mat or a punching bag, and they have gone, and that’s ok. My life has gotten less complicated and dramatic without the static and noise of other people negativity around me. I have learned to trust the universe and to have faith that as long as I live a good life and take care of me, that everything else will fall into place as it should. I can only control my reaction to any given situation, that’s it! Admittedly there is a lot of negativity and turmoil in the world, there always is, and that may never change, but I choose to see the good. I have seen this community band together to help one another and provide support. We have all learned to pivot, the now dreaded term, but we have! In our personal life, our work life and in the way we conduct ourselves. At least I know for certain I have. But I see it all around me. At work, at home and online! The world is changing. The earth is healing, community, for the most part is healing, and we, as humans are healing. I know that’s not everyone’s story. There are many out there struggling. Many who can’t or won’t reach out, I get it I have been there too. Thinking I SHOULD be able to do this or that on my own, or the government SHOULD let us get back to NORMAL. But what will that even look like now. I know my normal is now forever changed. I can’t control the lockdown, I can’t control the pandemic, but I can control my own outcome. I can fight it or I can learn and grow. I think my choice is clear. I have never been more alone, and happy about it, in my life! I know that I can rely on myself, most of the time, and if I meet people along the way who want to walk the same path, great, but I am comfortable here in my own skin. For the first time I feel free and that I am living my authentic self. No more masks, or boxes to fit into. Here I am like me or don’t, but I no longer need validation from others to know my worth. I am a beautiful human living my best life and I have never been happier. ALL of this I have learned during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
I have picked up this laptop multiple times, over multiple days, asking myself what stands out about you to me, that is important enough to share…I am no different than anyone else that has had to push on, through each day during those uncertain weeks; glued to the news wondering what is going on, is this really serious, how long will this last? Watching the toilet paper frenzy, long line-ups outside, learning what is deemed essential and friends/family hunkering down in lockdowns - first of many - and regretfully watching small business owners close… the livelihood lifelines.I watched frontline workers leave their families every day, hoping not to fall ill themselves to take care of strangers, risking their life and their loved ones all in the call of duty. Disrupting their own lives by living in hotels and trailers to serve others--the ultimate sacrifice.I drove down empty roads as everyone else stayed home and children learned remotely—a new cool concept that got old REAL fast.Early you had me watch friends and staff of mine deal with the effects of COVID including death - this was real.Like many others, I scrolled the multiple feeds on social media witnessing the strong opinions on what this was; was it real or fake, what we should or not do and watched emotionally fueled debates take place….amongst friends.Yet in parallel, I was inspired by the dedication of the tired leaders I observed on the frontlines, (gone were the suits) and in the boardrooms, ensuring their patients and staff were safe - they had no playbook but continued to fight this fight, not knowing what weapon to bring but their determination and grit. So I to knew I had to rise up and do my part. I watched families, friends, and coworkers united by a virus, become divided with opposing views, strong opposing opinions: to mask, not to mask, will you vaccinate or will you not vaccinate?And then if this was not enough, you brought a nine minute video that would forever change my life and so many others, creating more division. And then you threw in a polarizing election to affirm how strong division can divide. 2020 you were a blur to me, each day seemed to roll into night and day again and again for a lot of days, weeks and months. 2020 you were a mixing bowl full of feels – so many emotions mixing and coming together at the same time. Was your intention to create a plate full of chaos, confusion, adversity and divisiveness??? But then there was one special day, an awakening. The overwhelming outpour of our community during the June Miracle Day Food Drive. You reinforced for me that we can heal and come together for a shared purpose. 2020 you showed me the power of giving and caring can overcome divisiveness – the MAGIC of human kindness. So here I write -- I am no different than anyone else to be asked to write my reflections of the past year. I missed my normal everyday life before COVID, but today see a glimpse of a something new to come in 2021… something different.I AM DIFFERENT because of you, 2020;2020 you gave me an insightful awakening about mankind;2020 you gave me the unremarkable appreciation for the CAPACITY and IMPACT of the human spirit;Most importantly what stands out in 2020: you taught me and showed me the strength of RESILIENCE, RESPECT FOR EACH OTHER, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY power of KINDNESS & COMPASSION; And for that I am grateful.
Funny enough, I didn’t grow up dreaming of being a nurse. I can’t recall ever having a defining moment where I was called to this profession. I applied to nursing programs because I yearned for a career where I could apply my education and critical thinking abilities to impact peoples’ lives. To put it plainly, I wanted to make peoples’ lives better. In school, my peers would gush about the moment they knew that they were supposed to be a nurse, and some felt deeply that they were called to serve. I never had that, and I always wondered when my moment was going to come. When would I feel like a nurse, or at least like I was supposed to be a nurse? I longed for the day when Florence Nightingale, the mother of nursing herself, would descend from above and bestow upon me great wisdom (or at least she could give me tips for how to make it through nightshift) that would reinforce that I was meant to be a nurse. Four long years passed, crammed with studying, early mornings, and the occasional healthy existential dread that comes naturally with being a student. I waited in anticipation for my moment throughout my whole undergrad, and it never came. It didn’t matter much to me at the time though. I was in my final semester and I was ready to finally wear the RN title loud and proud. It was my time! I was ready! I planned to graduate, pass my NCLEX (the licensing exam required by the College of Nurses of Ontario), and get working at the bedside as soon as possible. I was eager to transition away from the student-nurse life and into the “working full-time with patients and getting a paycheck life”. I remember sitting in a lecture with my friends trying to figure out if I could afford to buy a car, or even a house in my first year (if I played my cards right). Clearly, it was a simpler time, but I digress. I proudly (and virtually) graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Nursing last spring. My undergraduate experience collaboratively at St. Clair College and the University of Windsor was one of the most challenging and gratifying experiences of my life. Yet, nothing in nursing school could have prepared me for what I would experience in my first year as an RN.I remember the moment when my world changed. It was in late March that I received an email from my university explaining that classes would be changing to virtual instruction due to an emerging novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In the coming days, the reality of COVID-19 reached Windsor. I received a follow-up email from my professors saying that exams were canceled now too. I had already finished my coursework, and I realized that I had done all that I needed to do. I held a quiet celebration for myself in the early hours of an unremarkable Tuesday morning, as I finished my undergraduate degree. Celebrating milestones in isolation would soon become a collective pain we would all share, but this was my first time. It was disappointing but it was far from the worst thing happening in the world at that moment, so it didn’t feel right to dwell on it. I didn’t know much about COVID-19 at the time, still I watched in horror with the rest of the world, as countries such as Italy faced utter devastation and unthinkable loss. The student in me who just wanted to be a nurse already felt distant now; I understood all at once that this pandemic had big implications for me.At first, my family wasn’t sure about my decision to start working in a pandemic before I was licensed. They reminded me that I had the option of focusing on studying for my exam before getting myself into whatever this was. I could see the fear on their faces and in their eyes when they asked me, “Can we still hug you when you come home?” I didn’t know how to answer that question yet, but I promised that I would do everything that I could do to be safe. A deep unease enveloped me because I didn’t want to hurt them or let them down. The idea of staying home to study and wait it out felt more appealing than ever. It was all happening too fast. A few weeks ago, I was picking out the dress I was going to wear to my graduation, but graduation was canceled now and there was a viral pandemic. I wished more than ever for a defining-I-want-to-be-a-nurse-moment like everyone else seemed to have to help me through this certain hardship. But I didn’t have that, so I had to follow my gut (which I guess is the next best thing to follow). I told myself, “This is what I went to school for, and I am needed right now”. The morning that I walked into the hospital for my first shift, my hands were shaking so much that I spilled coffee on my new scrubs. But I was there, determined as ever, to be there for my people and the patients we serve.I started at Windsor Regional Hospital in the Critical Care Unit (CCU) as an unlicensed nursing employee in late March 2020. In the beginning, it was daunting. Guidelines were still being determined for how to manage COVID-19. My colleagues and I watched as it overwhelmed healthcare workers and systems across the world. The early days bonded us deeply as we carefully balanced fear and duty. We meticulously watched eachother don and doff our personal protective equipment and we all changed out of our scrubs before we sat in our cars at the end of the day. Nurses questioned if they could or should still see their children. I would watch their eyes well up with tears as they felt the pull between their personal and professional lives. Every day the nurses on that unit showed up ready to do what they needed to do, pandemic or not. The staff in the CCU took this baby nurse under their wing until I passed my licensing exam in July, and I feel privileged to have started my nursing career there.Once I was officially an RN, the next step for me was the COVID-19 assessment centre at the St. Clair College Sportsplex. The days at the assessment centre last summer were long and hot. I had been feeling especially lonely at that time. Most of the students that I graduated with started working early too, and it was hard to keep up with everyone. However, some of my peers from my graduating class were working at the assessment centre too. It was the first time that I was able to see the people I went to school with since it was abruptly canceled months ago. I heard countless stories from my peers of the fear, pain and worry that were all too familiar from our first few months as nurses. We went to hospitals here in Ontario and Michigan, into patient’s homes, and witnessed tragedy in long-term care. I wish it could have been different for us, but I am immensely proud of the work we did when called upon. It was relieving to be able to talk about this unique experience with people who also lived through it. I felt the weight of the world come off my shoulders as we all relayed our stories to each other. I breathed the biggest sigh of relief when someone else said out loud, “Does anyone else feel like this wasn’t what they thought it would be like?”That question rattled around in my head for months to come as I struggled through shift after shift. I kept returning to the idea that this was not what nursing school said that it would be like to be a nurse. The rules were changing every day, the staff grew tired and the inevitable second wave was imminent. I was exhausted from working, my appetite and sleep decreased, and I doubted if I even wanted to be a nurse. I would tell myself that if I could just somehow feel like a nurse, then I could manage all the extra pressures that COVID-19 put on me. What I failed to recognize was that I was burned out. I started working before I finished school and I had not stopped yet. I was usually working under stressful conditions for long shifts; it was part of the gig at the time, but it was not sustainable. I never thought I would be the new nurse that gets burned out in the first year, but I was. I was tired and broken. and though I wanted to be a nurse more than anything, I needed to step away. I left my job at Windsor Regional Hospital to take the time I needed for myself.After some time away, talking with my doctor, and a few good ole fashioned cry sessions with my mom, I was ready to return to the bedside. I joined the Inpatient Rehabilitation team at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare in January, during the peak of the second wave. It was challenging to prepare myself to step back into the nurse role. I was disheartened by my last attempt at starting my career. I still possessed an all-consuming need to help people and the second wave was having a huge impact on my community, so I knew it was time to go back. HDGH became my home and the place where my dreams of being a nurse were ultimately realized. The interactions and relationships I have with my patients reinforce to me that I’m right where I’m meant to be. I removed the expectations of what a nurse was supposed to be, and instead focused on the reason why I wanted to be a nurse. This is my guiding light on the days when it’s hard. I know that despite the evolving nature of the world we live in, I can always help people. It’s the sacred privilege of being a nurse; if I’m there, I can do good and that is enough for me.When people ask me now, “Why did you want to be a nurse?” I am ready with my answer. And to be clear, it was not Florence Nightingale who gave me the wisdom. I learned it all from the nurses I worked so courageously alongside this year. For me: it’s the nurses who took me under their wing, while my hands trembled, and showed me how to show up for my patients and my colleagues. They held me to the highest of standards and taught me how to be a nurse in the ways that nursing school never could. I witnessed a lot of pain in my first year as a nurse. I held hands, I cried on shoulders and had people cry on mine, I held iPads to give my patients precious time with their families, and I gave many hugs through heavy sweaty layers of PPE. At every turn, I never walked alone. I was led by nurses who were laying it on the line for their people as they have always done. This is why I want to be a nurse; we help people, and we show up no matter what. It’s the best profession in the world.I became a nurse in a pandemic, and one year has passed since then. I didn’t know why I was supposed to be a nurse until I already was one, and it even took a pandemic to show me. I don’t mind the wait anymore because I had the best teachers, and this one - my career, is forever dedicated to all of them.
We all have our own stories of how COVID-19 has affected us…here is my story. Looking back I can remember the uneasiness and fear that I felt in February of last year listening to world news of how this Pandemic was affecting people in other countries and worried about what that impact would look like here in our own community. March of last year brought with it an apocalyptic feeling; to best describe what things looked like. I remember driving in to work on my normal route on the 401, which looked and felt much different. There was no traffic on my commute, in fact some days I was one of few cars on the roads. There were also ominous signs of “COVID-19 19 RESTRICTIONS” and “BORDER CLOSURES TO ESSENTIAL TRAVEL ONLY”. Today I pass those signs, which now seem commonplace, but remember the first days of feeling like this was all a bad movie. My work life focus changed as well, assisting with Screening and visitor restrictions, advocating for our patients and families, while trying to balance the safety of our staff and community. I was honored to be able to co-manage the Family Support Team which was an amazing group of redeployed staff from some departments that were impacted by closures due to COVID-19COVID-19-19. These staff members allowed us to have the resources to be able to connect our patients with their families, through virtual visits, courtyard visits and offering the emotional supports that our patients needed during this unprecedented time. They really helped me to focus on things we were able to do to keep our patients and families connected, and offered some positive patient stories that warmed my heart. I was also able to be involved in the development of the Coordinated Care Program for Designated Care Partners along with some of my colleagues from our Patient Family Advisory Council. This was another thing that helped me focus on some of the positive things that HDGH was doing to keep our patients and families connected, while balancing the safety of our staff. I was also able to contribute by assisting with COVID-19 swabbing clinics and also giving out some vaccinations at some of our long term care homes.Personally, my life was impacted directly by COVID-19. My brother, who is also a nurse working in the United States, contracted COVID-19 last March, right at the beginning of this pandemic. He was quite ill and has just recently required Cardiac intervention at the Cleveland Institute a year later. It has changed his life forever. We also lost my mother-in-law in December to Cancer. I was able to take some time off to help care for her at home as we set up a hospital bed to provide home hospice services. We knew that her wishes were to go to Hospice Village; however with the restrictions in place for visitation we knew that we needed to keep her at home so that we could all see her. Eight days before she died I contracted COVID-19. I am not sure, to this day, how that happened as I was staying with her full time other than a few trips to the grocery store. My fears escalated at the thought of who I might have infected. It went through our household and thankfully no one was permanently affected by this like my brother. The worst part though was after waiting the 14 days of our quarantine to be able to have a service for Mom, my sister-in-law contracted COVID-19. She was not able to attend her own mother’s funeral. This incredible loss for our family was further impacted by this horrible Pandemic as we were not able to have a “normal service” or gather with family and friends to help us grieve. Lastly, my own mother who is 91 has been cared for and kept safe in her Rest Home at Chartwell Oak Park. Although they have kept her physically safe, it has impacted her emotionally and intellectually. Isolation from family and friends has had such a huge impact and it is hard to see the changes it has had on her. I am blessed to be able to be her “essential care partner” along with one of my sisters, but my mother does not understand fully, or remember why her other children are not coming to see her. Like I said at the beginning, we all have our own stories. This is mine, and I am hopeful that we are on the other side of this. It still infuriates me when people think this is all “fake news” or inflated. This is real, it has affected us all in different ways and I am certain will have some long term impacts that we are not even fully aware of as of yet. I am confident that we will see this through and like I always do, will try to find the silver lining in it all.
When the pandemic was declared and restrictions began to be set in place, our Foundation had no way of predicting how deep and lengthy the effect would be felt by fundraising teams across the country. In order to keep our community safe and adhere to rules prohibiting large gatherings, all of our summer fundraising events were cancelled. The revenue from these events were still very much needed and we had to invent new ways to support Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare.We made plans to modify our annual Gala dinner, The Big Night, to adopt a “gala to go” format. We knew without the opportunity to all gather in the same room we needed to provide some of the fun in-person elements into our luxury box sales and a first class multi-course meal prepared by Ciociaro had to be one of those elements.But having one event take place would not be enough to sustain our goal of supporting the program needs at HDGH. We knew we had to do more and we knew our community would step up. Windsor has always been touted as a community that supports those in need and professional fundraisers across the city and county would confirm this belief to be accurate. If given the opportunity, those in Windsor-Essex, that could, would reach out to assist those in need. So the team put on their thinking caps to come up with innovative ways to raise funds yet keep everyone safe. First, we planned a Butterfly themed 5K trek with proceeds to benefit our children’s mental health programs. With the pandemic, these services were needed more than ever. The twist on this walk/run was that individuals and families picked up their event package and did the walk in their own neighbourhoods and posted their accomplishments to our social media channels. On International Women’s Day, in place of a luncheon or dinner, we provided the opportunity for individuals to send floral bouquets to the inspiring and important women in their lives. During Heart Month, the Ciociaro Club offered a take out special in February with partial proceeds supporting our Cardiac Wellness programs.Because these modified and new fundraisers were unfamiliar to our supporters, we sometimes turned to video as a means to market the events and used social media to communicate to our community and supporters. Next on the agenda was to highlight the role HDGH was taking in caring for the patients in our health system. HDGH accepted a wide range of patient transfers to our campus, freeing up local acute care beds for COVID-19 positive patients requiring hospitalization. Upon hearing of the work being done by our health care teams, our donors stepped up, opened their hearts and donated to our COVID-19 fund, tripling what we typically raise from our direct mail letters.But there was more! Individuals and organizations in our community wanted to thank the nurses and other front line teams for the long and stressful hours and soon our team was coordinating large in-kind donations of meals, snacks, handmade masks and nursing caps, fresh produce, ice cream, frozen meals and pizza to be shared with our clinical and non-clinical staff. What was different this time was when these calls came in, donors wanted to know the impact the pandemic was having at HDGH so they could meet our needs and assist in the best way they could. These gifts were more thoughtful than ever.While some groups wanted to take care of our employees, others reached out to improve the mental wellbeing of our patients. Isolated from their families, iPads and tablets were donated to allow for video calls and a means to pass the time while they were in our care with the installed and donated Netflix accounts. Wearing our other hat of Corporate Events, we brainstormed a number of ways to keep staff engaged and morale up. We held baby photo contests, made up bingo cards with hospital related squares, distributed two “Together We Stay Strong” shirts to all employees, organized Wear Purple Days and instituted a daily prayer to be read over the speaker system. All of this was to ensure our employees knew that we were all in this together. As the holidays approached, the team modified our traditional Christmas Celebrations to keep everyone safe. In place of our annual luncheon, gift packages with cake, goodies and an HDGH Christmas ornament were offered to anyone wishing to donate two canned goods for the Unemployed Help Centre. The employee Kid’s Christmas party was modified so we could still mark this holiday season with a gift from the hospital to the children of our employees.So while it was necessary for our team to adapt to all new regulations, it was important that we not throw our hands up in the air and surrender to thinking that fundraising wasn’t possible. What has proven to be true is not only is it possible but that it can take on many different forms. Setting our plans for the coming year lit a fire in our hearts to try new ways to reach our community and new ways to help our community recognize our colleagues at HDGH. The Philanthropy and Events team couldn’t be more proud of all they have accomplished and continue to each day.
2020 was going to be an amazing year. So many exciting things were going to happen. It just held so much promise. My oldest son, Kory and his wife, Nicole, were expecting their first baby in May, my first grandchild. My daughter Jacey was getting married to Eric and their wedding was planned for August. And my son Jordie, was fighting for a place on Canada’s Olympic team to go to the Tokyo Olympics in July 2020. The whole family was planning to go to Japan to cheer him on.And then COVID-19 happened. Jordie made the Olympic team in a tense competition in March right before the first lockdown. The worry of the competition being cancelled loomed until the last minute. And then after the high of making the team, within weeks the Olympics were postponed. The training venues were locked and closed down. It was a time of the greatest excitement and then the biggest disappointment. Thankfully Baby Ellie was born healthy in May, but without family support at the hospital and with the worry by everyone at that time for baby’s and mom’s safety from COVID. Masks were worn for the first ten months of her life by everyone except her mom and dad. The usually joyous event of a new baby was definitely tempered by worry, infrequent visits and masks. The wedding was postponed of course, no 200 person parties were going to happen for a long time. Jacey tried to plan a smaller wedding in December as we worked to try and do something outside in a tent at our house. But Windsor’s numbers climbed and we shut those plans down. She tried to plan for a Chatham venue because they were doing better than Windsor, with only 25 people attending. One week before the wedding, the province went into full lockdown and those plans were cancelled. Happily, they decided last minute (like that day) to get an officiant on December 27th and we had the wedding with ten people at our house. They were thrilled to get married in 2020, although it did not even remotely resemble the wedding first planned. There had been no bridal shower, no reception and she did not have the chance to wear her beautiful wedding dress (still hanging in her closet).My youngest son Jack, who was working in Lake Louise in the hospitality industry found himself without a job as the largest employer in the area simply shut their doors. There was no ability to know when they would open, or if they would still have jobs. One of the busiest areas in Alberta for tourists was simply no longer in operation. So, with no job and no hospitality industry, he just came home.Of course, through the year of 2020, our work did not stop. The hospital went into emergency planning and incredible changes. The stress of this virus caused worry and fear for all of us on the frontline. My office practice changed dramatically, going to virtual care when we could, but still needing to see patients in need of urgent review, vaccinating babies and children, and bringing infection control practices to the office. Staff needed to be trained and our day-to-day work looked completely different. It’s hard to think back to when there was no vaccine and the only protection we had was our masks, gowns, gloves and sanitizing protocols. People were dying. People were afraid. But we went to work everyday and continued to do our job.The hardest thing for me was managing the underlying stress of the work and the fear associated with what we had to do, but also trying to support my children as they encountered major stresses and disappointments in their lives. I think the fact there were so many exciting, happy events that were going to define 2020, made the reality of the pandemic a little more difficult to manage. But I knew everyone had stories of loss and challenges and we tried to focus on what we did have to be thankful for in 2020. Jordie made the Olympic team and he would go in 2021. Jacey and Eric did get married, it looked different but it was beautiful. Jack went back to Lake Louise and did his snowboard instructors course while he waited for the hospitality industry to re-open. And baby Ellie is healthy and now that we are all vaccinated, she knows our faces and we get to see her regularly, and that is amazing. My family is healthy, we did not lose anyone to COVID and for that I am so grateful. The pandemic of 2020/21 has been a time of stress and challenge for every person in some way - for many, much worse than others. But it has taught us to be more patient, kind and appreciative of the gifts we have, the importance of family and relationships. I believe our family has come out stronger and more resilient from this experience of COVID-19 with lessons learned that will only help us going forward to better days.
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