Listening to the weary and increasingly rasp as the voicemail message played on Wednesday morning caused great concern for me on several levels.
It is no longer close to home … it is, in fact, knocking at the front door knocking to come in.
The voice was that of Joyce, a health-care aide who said she wasn’t feeling well and, after two hours, she was heading home.
Four mornings a week, Joyce comes into our condo to help me kick-start my day. She makes a great cup of coffee, a gourmet fried egg sandwich with just the right amount of cheese, and toast and jam. Joyce folds my clothes and washes the floors.
But where Joyce perhaps shines the most is helping me shower, shave, brush my teeth and get my dressed.
I live with cerebral palsy and need assistance for many tasks. My wife Joan and I moved into our home in 1997. Several other folks with physical disabilities got together and pooled our funding so we each are allotted home care.
We formed a non-profit company and hire health-care aides to assist us. We schedule, administer and have just put the finishing touches on a strategic succession plan. We plan to be around a while.
With our close to 20 members, and just as many staff, we have become not only friends but family … a very tight family. So when a member of our family isn’t well, we share the concern.
But this — this is different.
When COVID-19 hit Canada, we hunkered down and tried to prepare ourselves — physically, mentally and organizationally — for not if the virus would invade our community But, more solemnly, when. Our community is at risk.
I was told Joyce has a cold, and no signs of COVID-19 at this time. But the potential domino effects of health-care aides becoming ill and missing work — most likely up to the 14-day standard — is far reaching.
Health-care aides — and, let’s all share some time to say God bless you all for the compassionate work you do — are the very lifeline for my neighbours and myself. Without them we are at great risk.
The same can be loudly pronounced for staff in extended care centres, assisted living communities, group homes and, certainly, hospitals.
Moreover, the health-care profession and the way it works personify teamwork. So when one member of the team is unable to contribute , others step up. And that deserves applause.
Yet, the warning bell must be rung.
As we are heading into uncertainty, the potential of more people to be able to work in health care is no longer a threat but a stark reality.
Finding an answer is going to take a collective effort. As COVID-19 and its distrustful path continues, so does its unscripted tale.
The story is developing and changing hourly. The health of those we love is the highest concern.
So, Joyce, get well. It won’t be up to your standards but, when you get back, I’ll have a cup of coffee waiting … just for you.