Born and raised in southern Manitoba, and now living in central Winnipeg, I’m well aware of how COVID-19 has challenged every aspect of society. The first lockdown began while I worked at Children’s Hospital, then I transitioned to Community IV nursing, and finally, I joined Rapid Response Nursing (RRN).
Within RRN, my team and I adapted to new roles to combat the pandemic, like providing mobile COVID testing in people’s homes. For many of the people I tested, I was the first person they had seen in weeks or even months. It’s bittersweet to see their delight in simply having human interaction – even with me, a stranger. I fondly remember a family with young children who begged me to stay and play with them. And I was saddened by an elderly lady who was worried she wouldn’t get to see her family before she died.
As part of my work with the Rapid Response Nursing team I was also deployed to personal care homes that were the sites of COVID-19 outbreaks. During this time I witnessed not only extreme loneliness, but also remarkable resilience among the residents, and was privileged to listen to many of their stories. One man had contracted the polio virus as a child and survived after ending up in an iron lung. He shared with me the immense relief and celebration people felt once the polio vaccine was available. This same man would go on to battle and recover from COVID-19, and he rejoiced in the development of the COVID vaccine. Among the stories of triumph are also those of heartbreak: individuals who died of the COVID virus, and those who despairingly did so without their loved ones at their side.
In January 2021 I received the Pfizer vaccine alongside my mother, who is a Primary Health Care Nurse. We celebrated with ice cream afterwards. Initially, I had reservations about the vaccine and the perceived unknowns. However, I became more confident in my decision as I read credible vaccine data, and through hearing others’ vaccination experiences. I too wanted to share my experience, hoping to help others feel more comfortable about getting vaccinated. Though I had no symptoms after the first dose, I developed aching joints and fatigue after the second, which persisted for four days, but quickly resolved once I had a day off work spent resting. Allowing the body the time it needs to rest is helpful as your immune system is working hard to develop antibodies against the virus. Common post-vaccination symptoms can be likened to sore muscles you might have after physical activity: both suggest the body is strengthening and requires recovery.
Throughout the pandemic chaos, what has kept me steady is my relationship with God through Jesus. When I saw hopelessness, I had unwavering hope; when I felt weary and tired, I was encouraged and strengthened; when I was sad and lonely, I experienced joy; when I was afraid, I found peace and courage through trusting God.
This pandemic has taught me to love more fully, to find joy in the little things, to treat each encounter with someone as a gift with opportunity for connection, and to creatively communicate while covered head to toe in PPE. The vaccine provides us with a glimmer of hope. I look forward to experiencing life with others again – to celebrate my nieces’ birthdays, play cards with my grandma, go on adventures with friends, and simply smile at a stranger indoors.