Updated: Jul 11
My name is Elaine Harrison from Somerset New Jersey, I'm a CNA at a nursing home in N.J. I've been taking care of the elderly for almost 30 years and although my job is demanding, emotional, and exhausting, it's always has been a wonderful experience for me throughout the years. My job is very fulfilling and I love helping and taking care of them while meeting some great and loving people along the way, it has impacted my life in a profound way. However, due to Covid-19, 2020 has been one of my least favorite years yet. This has become our new normal and not in a good way. Caring for the elderly and watching them get sick and then die from it, makes me feel helpless and the sadness I feel for them and their families are unmeasurable. My heart aches as I prayed for them but no matter what, I press on to take care of them. At the same time, I'm always praying that my family and friends are safe and well. However, the virus is rampant and out of control so needless to say, my family and friends were infected and affected as well. I say affected because even if they weren't infected they all were like everyone else in the world, affected by this pandemic in some shape or form and none of us could ever fathom that something like this could happen so close to home. When I say close to home, my mother was infected. Yes, my beloved mother.
Rewind to the past. My mom was and still is suffering from dementia, and my family and I had to make the heart-wrenching decision to send her to a nursing home, for her safety and to receive the proper care that she needed. We were not successful with placing her where I worked but we did find an alternative that we were happy with. Fast forward to the present. One day, we received the dreaded call that she tested positive for the virus, we were scared but we also had faith that she would recover from it. So many senior citizens in nursing homes have passed away in N.J. but we had hope and we stayed prayed up and by the grace of God, she recovered. During this time, the hardest part of all; was knowing that she was alone and without us because we were not allowed to visit. They had banned visitations due to the threat of spreading the virus. Understandable but also debilitating, there was nothing we could do about it so we just patiently waited and put our trust in the Lord, the staff, and the Doctors.
After she recovered, we were still unable to visit but relieved to know that we could do a video chat. Just to see her beautiful face and that infectious smile, was all we needed. Nothing but tears of joy, for such a priceless moment but I must say, the whole experience was bittersweet because there's more to this story. My aunt, my mom's sister, was in the same nursing home as my mom. Matter of fact, she was there first. Covid-19 was still on the rise and widespread among staff and patients, so they were evacuated and transported to different nursing homes. Sad to say, they separated them. Looking back, years ago my aunt suffered from a stroke and never recovered from it, and just like myself and my siblings, her children had to make the difficult decision to send her to a nursing home as well. Despite her illness, she was a firecracker, always full of life. Seeing both of them together was always a happy moment for us. We loved their love for each other and their bond was unbreakable.
However, those moments are now forever embedded as memories. The separation did more harm than good. My aunt passed away within a couple of days of being moved. We were completely shocked and devastated because she was just fine before the move, and we were surprised to find out that it wasn't because of the virus. To this day, we believe she died of a broken heart from being separated from my mom, her beloved sister whom she loved very dearly. God rest her soul. The virus changed everything, the way we mourn and the way we attend funerals. My story is not over yet, the most shocking moment of all is that I also was infected. If I didn't know before, I know now that no one is exempt from catching this ugly virus, not even me a CNA! I thought I was so safe, I was being so careful and because of the stay-at-home order, I didn't leave the house for months except to go to the store and work and back. I thought I was doing everything right, even after the order was lifted. Honestly speaking, I still had some doubts but I still eased back into society because I needed some type of normalcy, I guess it wasn't the right time because unbeknownst to me, I still ended up getting the virus.
Funny because I can recall the very moment when it may have happened. The good news is, I fully recovered but looking back at my experience with covid-19, it was like no other illness that I've ever had in my life. I had severe aches and pains throughout my body, I coughed a lot and couldn't breathe at times, I was always sleepy and would sleep every half hour. It was very scary and nothing like flu symptoms and to this day, I still have lingering symptoms! I also quarantined for 15 days in my guest room, while my wonderful husband took care of me day and night. God bless him and I'm so thankful for him. It's great to have survived this without any hospitalization. FYI: Please go to the hospital if you need to, my case was not severe enough to go but please go if you are having symptoms beyond your control. The takeaway, even though I would love to forget, I'll never forget this horrible experience. My message to you today is, you can never be too sure or too trusting of the people or places around you. Always be safe out there, no matter where you're at or who you're with because it can happen to you too!! Lastly, just know that we are all in this together and we will get through this! Hugs and Love by Elaine Marks, Covid-19 Survivor.