Fighting the Fight

Members | May 05, 2020 | by Carol Silver Elliott

Last week, I went up into one of our COVID isolation hallways to say goodbye to one of our residents. Steve was young, just over 60, and lived in our nursing home because of several complex health issues. But that didn’t stop him from being interested and engaged in everything.

Steve was a special education teacher for many years and his lively intellectual curiosity was a highlight of every program and every conversation. He was also always kind, sweet, never missing an opportunity to pay a compliment or heap praise on someone. That is just the man he was.

Steve was very close to one of our older residents, Harold, who passed away a number of months ago. Harold was often referred to as “The Mayor” and he, too, was an integral part of everything we did for many years. When Harold died, Steve came to one of our board meetings and presented a tribute to his friend and he talked about wanting to follow in Harold’s footsteps, although in typical Steve fashion, he told us he would never fully be able to fill Harold’s shoes.

The last time I saw Steve, I stood just inside his room, dressed in an isolation gown, a face mask, and a face shield. It was pretty clear, even to my non-clinician eye, that Steve was losing this battle. The staff, including his social worker, had tears in their eyes and we all told Steve how much we loved him and how grateful we were for him. And we watched as one of our amazing activities team members brought in an iPad, fully covered for infection control, so that she could FaceTime with Steve’s mom and sister and they could, as well, say goodbye.

Across the country, many of us are saying goodbye to people we care about. We are fighting this terrible virus and, in many cases, winning but not nearly enough, far from it. Our vulnerable elders are prey to this predator and it is our single-minded dedication that is keeping that predator at bay.

When this is over, and it will be over, we will celebrate our successes and we will grieve our losses. We will heal from our wounds but the scars will remain. These scars will remind us of this battle, of those who stepped up and gave it their all, of those whose commitment and dedication knew no boundaries. They will remind us of people like Steve, people we have loved and lost, people whose spirit will stay with us forever, and people who will encourage us to be strong, brave, and never stop.