ANISA SHARMA/SAGAMORE STAFF
I’m Ann Collins, I use she/her/hers, and I’m a BHS librarian.
My mother contracted COVID-19. She’s 86 years old and she is in a nursing home in Alabama, where I’m from, outside of Birmingham. The facility did have people coming in to test regularly, and for the whole first year of the pandemic, no one got the virus, staff or residents, and then it started to spread around, and they had a lot of people who got it, my mother being one of them.
The facility established a COVID floor and I was in contact with my mom and would talk to her on the phone sometimes. But it was hard to contact the staff because they’re in hazmat suits, and I didn’t want to call them when they needed to care for a lot of people. I made it clear to them that even though I was really far away, I would come down if they needed it.
It all happened in December, actually the day before a really big snowstorm hit which caused us to be out two days, and I got the call and they said I should come. So I got a flight out of Boston and my girlfriend went with me. Being so far away, there’s a feeling of helplessness. It was a big burst of adrenaline getting on a plane. It was surreal.
We went and could only see her through the window. She was very weak. I really thought I was going down to say goodbye. All of a sudden, she turned the corner and she started to get better. So there was a good ending. But 15 residents died, and this is a small nursing home, this is out of about 70 people. I don’t think any staff died, but 15 of the older folks did. It was really scary. But now she’s back to her old self. My mother is now fully vaccinated, and she’s more engaged when I talk to her. I really, truly think she’s happy to be alive.
When this whole pandemic started, down there, they didn’t think that it was actually real, especially because they were hit much later. I tried convincing them that it was indeed very real, though there’s not really any pleasure in saying that, well, maybe a little bit. I always took it very seriously. It certainly brought it home more, made it much more personal.
I did have an emotional reaction to the vaccine. I remember I came back the next day after the first one and I felt kind of vulnerable, like the way you feel before you get sick. I think it was the vaccine, I really do. I don’t think it had anything to do with the way I was thinking about it. I felt just a little off my game.
I was very relieved once I got the vaccine, and just knowing that more students were going to be coming back, that more was going to be expected of teachers.