By Cathryn Phillips, Scarborough Health Network
Just like a duck in water, I was calm, cool and relaxed on the outside while underneath I was going through a roller coaster of emotions.
When we first heard of the Coronavirus in Wuhan, many co-workers who also worked through SARS were stressed out. They feared the virus coming here to Canada and to our hospital. I teased these colleagues initially, at a time when I truly thought with a quick catch, maybe the virus could be contained. However, reality quickly set in as the numbers began to climb and the city, country and world began state of emergencies and lock downs. Oh boy! Just like that, I went from calm and collected to internally treading through the emotional waters, just like that duck.
Being raised by a single mom, and being a single mom myself, I learned very quickly what it meant to be independent and how important it was to remain strong on the outside for the sake of those around me. I have strived to be a person my children can turn to for anything and everything, and when this pandemic began, this role did not change. In March, before the emergency was declared, I had already isolated myself from my daughters and my grandchildren, unsure if the virus would hit the hospitals. I wanted to ensure the safety of my family while simultaneously providing them with reassurance that all will be okay and keeping their anxieties to a minimum. This was challenging as this was all you heard about every day on the news, and across all social media sites. I began sending them daily updates and statistics to try to calm their fears.
I work on a Transitional Care unit for Scarborough Health Network as a PSW (Personal Support Worker) and my role is to assist my patients with their activities of daily living. My patient population is mainly seniors, and my role poses many challenges on a regular day. The pandemic, however, added to those challenges. As staff we were all concerned for our patients and the idea of the virus reaching our floor was scary. We have patients waiting for LTC placement and the news was continuously providing us with the death tolls, a concerning amount of which were coming from LTC home across the GTA. This created a lot of anxieties for our patients, their loved ones and the staff.
All I could do during this time was provide support to patients and their families. I recalled how I felt being isolated from my family from an early point in the pandemic – I did this voluntarily and none of my family members were going through medical emergencies, and still it was difficult. Knowing this, and that I could not imagine how these families were feeling having to be separated during such a pivotal time in their hospital stays, I started a Zoom program. The program would allow patients to see and speak with their family members virtually. I can recall the first day we rolled out this program. My heart was overwhelmed with emotion when I got to see the faces of my patients and their loved ones, and their shared joy from finally reconnecting. It was such a wonderful sight to see.
I continue to provide care and support for families during the pandemic through the Zoom program and in any way I can. This includes one instance in which I stepped in as a support person for a dying patient – holding their hand and providing them with comfort during their last moments – when their family wasn’t able to be there due to the restrictions. Luckily, at the very least, the patient and his family were able to connect just hours prior to his passing through the Zoom program.
As I walked home from work on the first day of the Zoom program, two random strangers took a moment and thanked me for my services. I was touched, and could feel the sense of community and caring of our city. My heart was so full this day, I went home and cried. Just like a duck, I continue to paddle through my emotions about the pandemic and what it means for our patients, but now I get to say that those emotions include an abundance of love and gratitude.