At the beginning of the pandemic, when no vaccines were available, my parents contracted COVID in their nursing home. They were both in their eighties with comorbidities and were not expected to survive.
While my father remained asymptomatic, my mother went downhill very fast and was hospitalised. She ended up in isolation in a COVID ward and became very depressed.
Being a nurse, I was granted a visit with her to cheer her up, but I had to don all the gear to get into her ward and then don another layer to enter her room. When I entered, she looked at me in disgust and said, ‘You are just another person in a space suit. I can’t see you.’ I was shattered. I realised in that moment what it was like for those who contracted the virus early on.
I was initially told to sit on the other side of the room for my own protection, but this was difficult for us both as she was distressed. She said she felt like a leper as nobody wanted to go near her. It broke my heart. They eventually allowed me to hold her hand, to give her the physical connection she craved and needed.
Thankfully, my mother survived and after six weeks in hospital she moved back to the nursing home. When we were finally allowed to visit her and my father, we took the lift to their floor. When the doors opened, we were confronted with a wall of photos of all the residents who had not survived.
I realise how lucky we were. I feel for the families of loved ones who did not make it. COVID has changed so many people’s lives. I have stepped down in my role and cut back on my shifts just to make things a little easier. I think we all need to look after ourselves after what has been a few difficult years in nursing. I hope we never have to experience anything like this again.