I recently read the newest book by Jodi Picoult: Wish You Were Here. It's about a couple who were supposed to be on the trip of a lifetime right when Covid hit. They ended up splitting up; one going solo and the other staying back (he happened to be an ER doc and was obviously needed). While this was fiction, I couldn't help but see so many parallels to March 2020. What a time that was. No one could have known that we'd be on a completely different trajectory as a country & world after that surreal month. But, here we are, two years later. Finally without mask mandates (mostly). And most of us with an extra few shots/vaccines & hopefully immunities that we hadn't planned on getting. Here are my thoughts on how the pandemic affected Caregivers and The Right Relief Inc.
We did suspend meal delivery for about 2 months in spring 2020. I kept busy with Violet and I was physically slowing down a bit as I was getting more and more pregnant with Robbie. We were not able to cook at Ronald McDonald House (still not open to large groups for cooking nights) and Kathy's House. We were able to start individual Caregiver meals again in June 2020 and my awesome #ReliefSquadd volunteers continued cooking/delivering for me during "maternity leave." We also provided meals for 2 groups of healthcare workers in the spring.
In September 2020, we brought Relief lunches to teachers in 3 local schools. The start of the year is always challenging, not to mention also throwing in mandatory mask wearing. Kathy's House started allowing meals made at home to be dropped off for their guests/Caregivers. Individual meals were steady if not even higher than normal. Covid made Caregivers' jobs twice as exhausting. Adding the stress/worry of getting sick (in turn infecting their loved ones) just by walking into a grocery store made feeding and cooking for an ill patient that much more daunting.
I know I wrote about this in my original Covid post (here), but personally I think the hardest part for a Caregiver & family would have been not being able to have visitors in the hospital. My sister, brother-in-law, Mom and I all stayed at St. Vincent's Hospital in Green Bay with my Dad the week before he passed away. We were able to all be there for him as well as each other. I can't imagine not being able to do that. Just can't imagine. Period. It was also a little disheartening after giving birth to baby Robbie in June 2020 to not have any grandparents/visitors or even new big sister Violet come and meet him. Had it been our first child, I'm sure the feeling would have been magnified.
Having a sick child in the hospital over the last two years proved very difficult too. Grandparents not able to come and give parents a break/rest. Siblings separated for long periods of time. I recently read a Facebook post from a Caregiver Mom I've delivered meals for. She was also reflecting on the whirlwind that was the last two years (even more so for her). There came a point when she was physically unable to provide care to her medically complex child because she was so exhausted from endless days/nights at the hospital and staff was so overwhelmed by Covid cases they really couldn't provide much support. The mom had to be removed from her daughter's visitor list (which could only have 2 people on it at the time) just so a trusted friend/care partner could take her place. She went home and slept for 2 days straight. This just shows the immense toll that caring takes on the Caregiver during Covid and everyday. Wow.
Here's to a better year ahead!!