Pandemic Life Inside a Care Facility

Lisa Martin

Many sisters of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary live in Bishop Drumm Retirement Center in Johnston Iowa. Here are two of their reflections on life during the pandemic.

Sr. MICHELINE CURTIS – tested Covid positive and did have symptoms.

1)      How has pandemic affected you personally?  -  We’ve been confined to our rooms here at Drumm since mid-March (written mid-June).  Not able to interact with others.  I was put on oxygen soon after being diagnosed with Covid and I still require the oxygen assistance.  I was very weak and had no appetite and body aches.  I was in bed several days in a row, with no energy or the strength to move much.  I also required much more assistance from the nursing staff.

2)     How has pandemic affected the community? – No daily Mass and no daily prayer.  Very little interaction with others as we are also eating in our rooms out of ‘to-go’ containers with plastic flatware!

3)     How has this affected your lifestyle/spirituality? – I am doing more communicating by e-mail and telephone.  I have also been having more correspondence with friends I did not hear from much.  A grade school friend calls frequently, and she got the message out to other classmates who have also called and sent cards.  I now watch Mass on TV.

4)     Relationships hindered or enhanced? – I would say my relationships with those outside the facility have been enhanced, as I am having more contact with them.  I definitely have more conversations with my brother!  Because we are cut off from other residents in the building, it is difficult to maintain much of a relationship or carry on conversation.

5)     My prayer at this time would be for our lives to return back to a more ‘normal’!  Not having any Easter liturgies was difficult along with not being able to receive Holy Communion.

6)     What did I learn about myself? – I’ve learned that it’s OK to ask others for help.  And my patience has been tested but I am working on being more patient so it is improving.  I also appreciated how the CHM staff here at Drumm figured out ways to reach out and continue to serve the sisters, even when they weren’t allowed in the building.  We also realized we CAN function without staff here five days a week – although we don’t like to!

Sr. JEANETTE KOPEL – tested Covid negative, but had to re-locate to a different room for several weeks to be isolated from Covid positive residents.

1)      Affected her personally & community? – Everything changed immediately – nothing gradual.  It was like ‘being in a big boat’ with water all around, but you couldn’t swim.  Being in the different room didn’t feel like ‘home’.  Activities have been restricted so no going outside and no interaction with others.  The entire daily schedule was turned upside down.  I often thought ‘where am I?’ and ‘where should I be?’.

2)     How has it affected relationships? – Not able to reach out to others.  If you were talking to others, it felt like you were doing something wrong. 

3)     Praying for? – Patience and understanding.  And I want to go outside!

4)     What did I learn about myself? – With ‘hope’, you can get through a lot.