My wife is a Registered Nurse, not with Plan A, but a local hospital in the Kitchener Waterloo area. We originally met in a professional setting, and I said at that time, that she was the best nurse that I had ever worked with.
We watched intently as the COVID-19 virus spread in China, Italy and other countries. All we could think was “It’s only a matter of time before this hits Canada.”
In early January 2020, we heard news of the first cases popping up in the US, which were promptly dismissed as negligible by many people. This was all of the confirmation that we needed to know that Canada was next.
Sure enough, within the next few weeks, we watched, astonished as the numbers started to trickle in. We immediately began to prepare for what was inevitably to come. My wife’s first day isolating from our family within our home was March 9, 2020. We put up makeshift doors and plastic sheeting to help mitigate the risk and limit airflow within the house. She started using the side door only, no more entering through the front of the house. We set up sanitizing stations along her pathway to the basement, with a bleach solution and rags and hand sanitizer.
As she walked through the hallway, I would follow closely behind and wipe down the touchpoints along the path. She stopped riding in our vehicles as well, so we walked to and from work, while maintaining our distance from each other, often more than 6 feet apart and tearful. Thankfully, it was only about a twenty-minute walk from our home.
Over the coming days and weeks, we watched the numbers climb and climb. Within the first two weeks of the pandemic, we were notified of two potential direct exposures within her first two rotations, which was extremely frightening and concerning. Thankfully, both tests were negative, much to our relief.
There was so much chaos and information coming from every which direction, it was difficult to tell fact from fiction. I can say without hesitation that walking with her up to the property line, and having to watch her bravely walk into that building is one of the hardest, most terrifying things I’ve done in my life. “This is what we do” she tells me, referring to her duty as a Nurse and health care provider. “I can’t leave my team short, they need me. The patients need me.”
Even while waiting for her COVID-19 test results from both tests I mentioned, she felt such guilt and anguish over not being there as a support. It wasn’t about being off sick, because she was getting paid. This was a genuine feeling of remorse and regret that she was feeling over being forced off work due to factors outside of her control.
Knowing that she was going to be put at risk, despite her best efforts was extremely frustrating and terrifying, to say the least. We stayed in this self-imposed quarantine for 103 days — Monday, March 9, 2020 to Saturday June 3, 2020. 103 days of no physical contact with my “better half”. 103 days of no cuddles with our kids. 103 days of no meals together, no movie nights together. Nothing, together. I had no idea how hard it would be to be in the same house together, but not be permitted to spend time together. So hard.
When all of this hit us, I was about one month in to my time with Plan A. When my team found out what was happening with my wife, and the fear we felt over PPE, our Operations Manager, Chelsea jumped in her car and brought me a box of N95 masks that she had proactively purchased herself for her family. She shared them with me, without hesitation, and I am forever grateful for the generosity and consideration. We barely knew each other at that point, but it didn’t matter AT ALL.
As things begin to open back up, and life starts to return to “normal”, I find myself wondering what the coming days, weeks, months and even years have in store for us as a family, and for Ontario and Canada as well. Based on what I’ve seen, people are becoming lackadaisical with their masking, social distancing and hand washing. I fear that the “second wave” may be even worse than the first one was. I fear not having my best friend by my side for another 100 days or more, and the impact that this has on our family as well as others.
Please, for the sake of the healthcare professionals and other frontline workers in your communities, be mindful when going out in public. Stay home whenever possible, and order online. Do curb-side pick up. Get an Amazon Prime subscription. Do whatever you need to do to stay safe, healthy and respectful of everyone around you. It will save lives, and ultimately, get us out of this pandemic faster than any other way, so do your part!
My final thought on this gloom and doom… hug your “better half” and your loved ones every chance you get, and tell them how much you appreciate them. I hope you never have to go 100+ days away from your favourite person, like I did, however I know that is the unfortunate reality for many in similar circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll do it again and again and again, if it means keeping everyone, especially our kids, safe.
Wishing you all nothing but the best of luck, health and wellness for the rest of 2020 and beyond.
~ Murray Pinard, Recruitment Manager, Plan A Kitchener Waterloo/London