This has been a hard week in my house. Tuesday was the first anniversary of my mom’s death.
In the summer of 2017, I was with her when she had a massive heart attack. She wasn’t expected to survive the day but, to the surprise of her doctors, she fought her way back to being able to live independently at her home.
I used to visit my mom early every morning, to make sure she was OK. On a morning in the fall of 2019, however, I couldn’t get into her house. There was a small chain at the top of her door — a security measure that gave her peace of mind — and she wasn’t answering her phone. I kicked in the door and found her unconscious on her living room floor.
In a bit of a panic, I yelled at her and she regained a level of consciousness. It was obvious she had suffered a serious stroke. I called 911 and she was taken to the hospital by ambulance.
She was in the BRHC for two weeks, then the Assiniboine Centre for several additional weeks. The care she received was outstanding. I can’t say enough about the doctors and nurses who looked after her.
In January of 2020, it was clear that she could never return home. She was admitted into a personal care home here in Brandon, where she would receive the 24-hour care she needed.
A few weeks later, she developed a terrible lung infection. She was given medication for the tremendous pain she was experiencing, but her other serious health problems meant she would never receive medical care to prolong her life. She was not expected to live for more than a few days.
But she did. Again, she fought back to pretty much the condition she was in a few weeks earlier.
There have been many stories about people suffering from COVID-19 weeks, even months, before the world realized how serious the threat really was. In hindsight, I wonder if my mom was one of those people. She certainly had all of the symptoms we are told to watch for.
A month after she recovered, the COVID lockdown began. For many weeks, the residents of her PCH were not able to receive visitors. Even after the restrictions were loosened, I was the only one allowed to visit her, and that was under strict limits. Because of the restrictions needed to keep vulnerable people like my mom safe, she spent most of 2020 in depressing isolation.
As the severity of the pandemic was becoming clear, I had a conversation with one of her caregivers at the home. The nurse (or aide, I can’t recall) was an enthusiastic Donald Trump fan and, like Trump, was convinced COVID-19 was fake. She was aggressively defiant about it.
I thought about that conversation last weekend after I heard that Premier Heather Stefanson still refuses to make COVID vaccination mandatory for personal care home staff. It made me angry because I experienced what many personal care home patients and their families have been going through for the past 18 months.
Stefanson says she’s listening to Manitobans, but she can’t be listening to those families. If she was, she would know that nobody moves into a PCH by choice. It’s almost always an involuntary, one-way trip for people too ill to live at home any longer.
That’s why a PCH is called "God’s waiting room." It’s the place where a patient will very likely die.
If Stefanson was listening, she would know how vulnerable PCH patients are to disease and infection, and how helpless, even guilty, patients’ families feel about the situation.
Helpless because they feel powerless to improve their family member’s situation; guilty because they punish themselves for not having done more to prevent it from happening.
If Stefanson was listening, she would know how precious those final days are, and how cruel it is to make a decision that needlessly puts the lives of PCH patients — the most vulnerable of Manitobans — at risk.
She would know that a large percentage of COVID-19 deaths in Manitoba are linked to personal care homes, and that her refusal to make COVID vaccination mandatory for personal care home staff will likely mean more deaths.
With all that in mind, I have to ask: if Stefanson isn’t listening to the families of PCH patients, exactly who is she listening to?
» Twitter: @deveryross