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We Can Be Heroes

As our elderly sit bewildered in nursing homes, and some are describing the care given to our seniors as disgraceful there are some remarkable caregivers who shine like beacons enjoining us to do better, not through their words, or through protests, but through their sterling examples.

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Phil La Duke

As many of you know, I have written many articles on the Heroes Of COVID-19 for Authority magazine,  but what most of you don’t know is that many of the submittals are enigmas to me.  I read the answers to my questions and can’t for the life of me figure out what on God’s green earth would make these dunderheads believe, and crow about things that are neither heroic nor COVID-19 related. And this after the instructions clearly state that the responses should articulate what makes them a hero.

What many of you also don’t know is I have a family member who is in my mind a true hero. Kayla Wilson is a certified nursing assistant at an elder care facility.  Many of the people in her care, have dementia, or other mental illness that leave them scared and bewildered about COVID-19.  Some of the more lucid wonder why their families no longer come to visit. When it became clear that one ward was exposed to COVID-19 many of Kayla’s coworkers either flatly refused to provide care to the patients or even quit their jobs rather than care for patients who desperately needed it. I don’t blame them.  COVID is a lethal and highly dangerous disease for people in this age bracket, and who wants to catch it.  But someone has to rise to the challenge. And that’s what heroes do—they put their own needs aside to minister to people who need them.

When the management came to Kayla she answered the call without complaint. As it turned out, no one on the ward developed COVID-19 but Kayla didn’t know that.  She would come home to her husband and four children, disrobe in the garage, throw her uniform straight in the washer, and shower before having contact with her family. “No one touches mommy until after she showers” became a mantra in her home. Because that’s what heroes do—they answer the call to duty.

Being a caregiver to the elderly can be a challenge in the best circumstances, but there’s no denying COVID made it even worse.  From the elderly woman who refused to allow Kayla to change her diaper and clean her up—who wept as if her heart was breaking until Kayla hugged her and told her that she loved her and would take care of her—to the elderly man who threw a conniption fit until Kaylay said, “I have four kids under the age of eight, I can do this all day. When he stopped throwing a fit, Kayla asked him if he was finished. He said he was and they played a game together. Because heroes are compassionate and empathize with people in pain, who are confused, and sometimes angry.

Kayla is so dedicated to her patients that when there was an actual COVID-19 outbreak she again answered the call to serve.  Again, because heroes put their own safety secondary to the needs of others.

Kayla returned to her native Michigan after a five year stint in Florida, shortly before the COVID-19 outbreak. The entire family rejoiced when the 24-hour drive became an hour and a half drive, but the family reunion was short lived. When the pandemic broke Kayla and her family embarked on almost complete social and physical isolation. Not for their own sakes, but for the sakes of her patients.  She cuts her own hair—even when the restrictions were eased, Kayla and her family sacrifice and incur the added cost of completely contactless delivery of all their family needs..

Kayla is the person who holds your beloved mother or father in her arms as they lie dying. Kayla keeps your family member company when they miss you and can’t understand why you aren’t coming to see them. Kayla is the one who works long hours sacrificing time with her family because she doesn’t want to expose your loved ones to this deadly disease. Because the greatest of heroes bring peace and comfort when we can’t do it ourselves.

There won’t be a story about Kayla or her family in Authority. But I hope one or two obnoxious PR reps will read about Kayla and her compassion, and her devotion, and her sacrifice before submitting a hackneyed and shamefully self-promoting interview response where people see themselves as heroes when all they did was their jobs.

And for my part, I wish I could spend more time with Kayla and her family, but how incredibly selfish would I have to be to put my wants, needs, and desires before the needs of these patients?

Kayla’s service to society’s most vulnerable has caused me to examine my own behavior and my own priorities when I think about the things she has done and continues to do it makes my problems seem pretty small and petty.

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