Sep 27, 2021 | Grace
Nursing, a career I love. Coming to work is enjoyable and I get to help mend the sick, to be a shoulder to lean on, I can lend an ear that listens and give hands that are willing to help. I never knew how much my life would change in 2020. I remember reading about COVID-19 in the news and really didn’t pay much attention to it initially. That is until the first case hit Canada, Ontario and then it hit home in Windsor. Once it hit Windsor I knew it was just a matter of time until it would reach the hospitals. That day came; panic set in but I knew I was in this career for a reason and I knew my patients came first. I didn’t show my panic and instead I kept it inside. I knew I was going to do whatever I had to do to be a helping hand. In a matter of a few weeks this horrible virus was spreading like wildfire through our most vulnerable; in and out of long term care homes and retirement homes. This is when the field hospital became a home for many of these vulnerable individuals and that’s when I got the e-mail about 1 North. They were opening up a unit for these individuals that were waiting to go back to their homes within long term care. Of course without hesitation I said yes. I remember the first day slowly admitting these individuals into our care and I remember thinking to myself, how scared they must be. I also remember thinking we are their glimmer of hope and they are one step closer to going home. They survived COVID-19, these individuals conquered this horrible sickness. The last week the unit was open was bittersweet; for one month we got to help these individuals smile, laugh and get excited again. Within one week we slowly emptied the unit sending each individual back home, some were nervous and scared but most were very excited as they had not been home in a month or more. What an amazing feeling; it was such a privilege being able to give a helping hand and step up in such a scary time. I never thought I would live through a pandemic, but years from now I will be able to share how amazing our hospital is; how amazing it was to work with an amazing group of coworkers stepping up with helping hands. One positive note COVID-19 taught our hospital was that we are able to step up and become one when our community needs us.
What started out as an awful time, actually turned out to be a pretty good experience. Firstly, I work as an RN in the Bariatric Clinic. The clinic had closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. I was initially sent to a Rehab Unit. I have a history of a back injury, but never obtained an accommodation and I re-injured myself. Things were not good and I thought I was not going to be able to do the “physical work” that I used to do. Then Nancy Berthiaume, who was a former manager of mine called. I told her “Nancy, I just can’t do all that lifting” and her response was “I know what your problem is.” So I started on 2North with her, and on the second day she asked me if I would be In Charge of the Unit, to think about it and get back to her the next day. I’m not going to lie, I was hesitant. After a couple weeks, things were tough, but we were making it through the day. Then I had a change in managers and started working with Sean Goodfellow. He knew things were difficult. He had a plan and he had some permanent staff to help on the Unit. We became a close-knit family. Day by day, week by week, we worked together and our “nursing home patients” became part of the family. We had our troubles as you would imagine , some patients fell ill, deaths, but we managed through our days. I found friends I would have never found had I never been assigned to 2North. We managed to get along very well. I do hold them close to my heart because we trusted each other and they never let me down when things got tough. I would help them, mentor them, listen to them. We were going to beat the battle of COVID-19 by keeping each other safe, our patients safe, our family safe. As we became very comfortable with our team, everything became routine. Sean had team huddles and myself, SW Jen and Sean would do patient rounds on Fridays. We had excellent “Patient Support Team (PST) and Family Support Team (FST)” to bring patients outside, do activities or Facetime their families. By this time I was known as “mother” and the nurses were my “kids” , I did take care of them of them after all and I was the oldest person there (aside from the patients).I thank everyone who had a hand in the “first round” of COVID-19 on 2North. Especially Sean Goodfellow for being an awesome manager, Jenn Clifford for being an excellent the Discharge Planner, and all the nurses I worked with – RNs, RPNs and student nurses, a mix of temporary and permanent employees as well as the PST and FST. This was a time of uncertainty, insecurities and unknown outcomes that was turned into a pretty positive experience.
Last year the world as I knew it began to change. My strongest memory of the early days of the pandemic was the announcement that schools would not be returning after March Break. I remember feeling confused as to why they were making such a drastic decision based on “some flu.” I obviously was completely ignorant to the severity of what was beginning to unfold around me. On March 23, 2020, my work life officially changed. We had one week to pack up and empty our entire department, the Centre for Problem Gambling and Digital Dependency, now being referred to as 1 North , cancel client appointments, ensure all necessary paperwork and phone calls were completed, condense and discharge our residential program and go for training for redeployment. It was, to say the least, a very busy week. In the training, you could see a mixture of anxiety, excitement, and confusion on all the faces involved. Initially, there was a lot of “winging it” and mixed messages, but we all just went with it because that was what was needed.Our department officially closed and our team (my work family, really) was dispersed throughout the organization. I was initially moved to 3 South as a Patient Care Team member. This role was so far outside my wheelhouse… I think I just worked on an element of autopilot. I remember thinking that these are medical patients; what could I possible do that would be helpful? Truth be told, initially I felt completely useless, despite the incredibly kind words and warmth that was provided from the staff there. To be completely honest, at first it was incredibly difficult for me; I’m not a person who likes to stand by and just “watch” and I felt like what I was doing wasn’t enough, but what could I do? Don’t get me wrong, I was (and still am) so incredibly grateful that we were able to keep working during this time, but feeling useless during such an important time was a struggle. I eventually found my groove, but I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the support of the staff of 3S. They truly were (are) just awesome. I was also so incredibly fortunate to be paired with one of my co-workers, Christine Kerester, who was my pillar of support throughout. I remember working a late shift there and finding out that two dear friends of the family had contracted COVID-19 and quickly passed from it and Chris was so supportive; I was (and still am) so glad that she was there.Having the opportunity to spend some time on Palliative and speak with patients and families was a complete honour. As a Social Worker, the entirety of my career has been working with people who struggle with addictions, but I’ve always felt a pull towards working in the area of palliative and hospice and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity. While it was not in a social work capacity, I was still able to connect with patients and families and be a very small part of their journey. I am forever humbled and thankful for that opportunity. I was later moved to the Family Support Team (FST), working on both 1 South and 1 North. Part of my role included connecting patients with their families through courtyard visits and virtual calls. This was such an important role because being separated from a sick loved one is so stressful and to be able to help alleviate even a small part of that stress by helping create some kind of connection was so awesome. Watching people tear up, as they connected with family and friends, from pure joy, blowing kisses and virtually hugging one another was a beautiful, emotional experience. Once the weather turned nice, we were able to bring people outside for fresh air in the courtyard, which was beyond appreciated by the patients. It was also a fantastic way for them to socialize with other people (in a safe, distance manner of course!) One memory that particularly sticks out for me is when a small group of women from different floors in Emara began talking outside and realized that they were from similar areas in Italy. Different FSTs started coordinating outdoor time so these women could meet, talk, and sing these beautiful songs in Italian together. Seeing the human connection that was happening moved some of them (and staff) to tears at time. It was seeing happiness, joy, connection and laughter in action in a time of sadness, worry and separation. Connecting with the patients and family was a life-changing experience and humbling beyond words.I would be amiss if I didn’t speak about the personal ways in which I had been affected during this time. As mentioned, I am so thankful that I was able to remain employed during this time. My husband, Kyle, was able to work from home and be there to ensure our son was taken care of while attending school online. Kyle is and will always be my rock and he was there for me on so many levels during this pandemic…Thank God for him! He endured my happy days, sad days and every one in between. My son struggled at times, being an only child and being stuck with only his parents to hang out with (so not cool), but we had some great times together! Bike rides, playing games, painting rocks, doing chalk on the driveway, doing virtual visits with family and friends, and (best of all) welcoming a new dog into the mix! I also was fortunate to take part in a drive by caravan with over 200 cars to celebrate and honor the work that was being done at the local long term care homes during this pandemic. It was an emotional experience, but an incredibly positive one. On a work level, I am grateful for all of the awesome people I worked with. I got to meet and get to know so many people. On the FST, I had the chance to connect with so many new people, which I never would have had the opportunity to do otherwise. Our FST turned into a mini family, looking out for one another, helping one another (this happened so often) and just being there. It was amazing. Some of us have talked and hope to have a get together once it is safe to do so to catch up, share some good memories and celebrate the time we had together. I am so looking forward to this!All in all, this was one hell of an experience! I learned a bit more about myself and I learned just how hard the staff throughout HDGH work. I have a renewed appreciation of the importance of being part of a team and am grateful to be part of this team here. I also have much respect for the families and the patients who have (and continue to) put their trust in us during these trying times. There were so many unknowns and there will continue to be unknowns, but the thing I do know is this - if we continue to do this together, then we’ll get through this and whatever else life has to throw at us.
On March 1, 2020, my granddaughter was born. My 22year old daughter lives with me and I am her only support. The experience was joyful and yet frightening as, at the same time, the pandemic had just started. My existing anxiety disorder, which I’ve had since my twenties, was fueled to the point of panic. I was terrified of getting COVID-19 by working at the hospital and passing it to my newborn granddaughter and daughter. I had to take a week off of work, having made myself sick with anxiety. The thought of being in the hospital environment led to terrible panic attacks. I eventually found the courage to return to work. I pushed through my severe panic and fear with the help of my wonderful nurses on Rehab 4. They always took the time to calm me even though they were dealing with their own fears. Part of my daily routine was to go to my patio to take off my uniform and then head straight to the shower. I was careful not to kiss my granddaughter but helped with her care to support my daughter. At the end of March, I was informed by Community Living that I could no longer visit my Autistic 26 year old son at his group home due to their new COVID protocols; nor could he come home to visit with his family. This was devastating since my son relies on me for all of his emotional needs, as hugs and cuddles are not allowed to be given by the staff. In addition, all of his regularly scheduled daily respite outings had been cancelled. As much as I understood that this was all in Ben’s interest to keep him safe, I knew that even small changes to his routine would cause him great anxiety. This was overwhelming!So, I tried to keep up a brave front at work while dealing with these personal worries because I knew that my co-workers were each arriving at work with their own concerns, and having to do the same. I did my best to stay cheerful with the patients because I knew that they had an additional layer of suffering. The weeks that followed were full of the ups and downs sparked by the joy of being a first-time grandmother and complicated by the constant worry and sadness that consumed me after losing physical contact with my son. I became obsessed with cleaning both at home and at work. I suffered from constant insomnia, crying myself to sleep for brief periods every night. Things improved a bit during the spring and summer months when we could sit outside. I felt that my anxiety was starting to calm down, and I felt increasingly safe at work with all the PPE and safety planning for staff and patients. My son and I communicated daily by phone, but he continued to struggle with the COVID protocols like wearing a mask, having to stay home, and losing contact with his respite workers. In July, I was finally allowed to visit Ben for an hour once a week, but we had to stay six feet apart and wear masks and shields. I was also required to get a COVID Test every two weeks in order to keep up the visits. Not being able to hug my son or let him cuddle with me was heartbreaking, but we made the best of it. All I was able to do was go to work, and then return home and try to keep my daughter and granddaughter safe.Then devastating news reached us – my unit, Rehab 4, was in outbreak. All visits with my son stopped, and my panic attacks returned. I was so terrified of bringing COVID-19 to the baby that I became even more obsessed with cleaning both at home and at work. Even though we could see the fear in each other’s eyes, my co-workers and I tried to remain cheerful with the patients. My co-workers are like family to me, and the thought that any of them might get COVID-19 was truly terrifying. Yet we continued to comfort each other while going above and beyond to meet the emotional and physical needs of the patients, especially since they were not allowed visitors. Each day I returned home drained of all energy, praying that I would not bring this horrible disease home to my family.As Christmas approached, I was saddened to realize that this would be the first time that I could not celebrate the holiday with my son since adopting him at the age of two. Luckily, the staff in his group home gave him a loving Christmas, so Ben handled it better than I did. Finally, when the outbreak ended and I had been vaccinated, I was able to resume the one-hour weekly visits with Ben with the now familiar protocols in place.In addition to coping with fear, sadness, and anxiety, I have also had to find ways of dealing with my anger. I had grown increasingly frustrated with the anti-maskers, anti-vaxers, and COVID-deniers. Moreover, knowing that Ben’s struggles with the changes to his routines were creating behavioural issues led to me being in frequent conflict with staff in his home. I have always been Ben’s strongest advocate, but I’m afraid that the loss of control and contact with him just caused me to be more irritable with the people who are responsible for his care. I regret this, but now have a better understanding of how the lack of contact with their loved ones is affecting the families of our patients. I have also come to realize that anger is self-defeating; it simply fuels my anxiety.It is now May 2021. I am doing better with all things related to COVID-19, largely due to the support of my co-workers, and particularly the nursing staff on Rehab 4. I feel somewhat safer now that I have been vaccinated but I still fear for the safety of my unvaccinated loved ones. I am coping better with my anxiety, and just pray that one day soon I’ll be able to hold my son again. We have lived with this long enough now that we seem to be adjusting to the ‘new normal’, but I long for the day when we can start enjoying some of the ‘old normal’ again.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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