“I did not go home to my family for over 2 months, just because I wanted to keep them safe. I’ve missed my loved ones and my home.”
Tiffin, Ohio – July, 2020
My name is Kelly. I am the executive director of Volunteers of America, Sojourn at Seneca Senior Behavioral Health Hospital in Tiffin, Ohio. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, I’ve been on working with social services and healthcare staff on the front lines. Every day, we face the fear of coming to work as well as the fear of bringing the virus home to our families. The guilt we feel when someone becomes ill, can be unsurmountable. I did not go home to my family for over 2 months, just because I wanted to keep them safe. I’ve missed my loved ones and my home. I think the longstanding effects will change the way we think and feel about work and healthcare and especially the mental wellbeing of our healthcare workers (let’s hope so).
In mental health, it may not appear that we’re as much on the frontlines as ICU folks; however, we’re right there alongside them helping all to stay safe and emotionally/mentally viable so that they can continue to care for patients. We’ve set up comfort rooms, education centers in order to emphasize how to stay safe when caring for patients, PPE stations, temperature check in and out stations, etc. Our whole way of work is in trying to be reassuring and supportive and understanding of fears in general in the community and with our staff. We are also the support for the families. We watch people die without having loved ones there. We know that, once someone tests positive and is hospitalized, they will not see their loved ones again. For us, as workers, to witness that is difficult and heartbreaking. The emotional toll is often extremely difficult.
While I’ve dedicated my life to helping others, I never thought I’d be tested in this way. This pandemic has touched the souls of all of us who work to save lives. I’m certain that many on the frontlines will spend years working to recover from this trauma. Just as soldiers on a battlefield are forced to make quick life-and-death decisions, we too have faced challenges we never would have predicted.