In the last week of December Kensington learned that Women’s College Hospital had the COVID-19 vaccine and was able to administer it to residents at our long-term care home, The Gardens. The hospital also had enough vaccine for Essential Caregivers and staff but would need the Gardens to run its own clinic.
With days’ notice, the two teams merged together for a common purpose: vaccinate as many people as possible safely.
January 5, 2021, was the largest mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Ontario at the time. In total, almost 290 residents,110 caregivers and 20 staff were vaccinated. Not only was this a huge milestone, but it also showcased the remarkable partnership between the Gardens and Women’s College Hospital that continues to thrive to this day.
That day also marked an important milestone for our long-term care community. From residents to family members to staff, this day meant the start of the end. Here are the stories of three people who participated in that clinic:
Tracy Rook, Nurse, Kensington Screening Clinic
I did not find out I would be part of the vaccination clinic until the night before. When my manager asked me to volunteer, I felt a rush of excitement - that I was going to be a little piece of something historic. When I arrived that day, it was obvious that everyone shared that same energy.
My station was set up to vaccinate essential caregivers, the families of our long-term care residents. Once l started chatting with those receiving the vaccine, it really sunk in just how monumental this was for each one of them. The act itself is so simple and feels a bit anticlimactic - a quick shot usually in the left arm, 15 minutes of observation after. But for many, it meant so much more.
These caregivers have been heroes putting on a brave face in front of loved ones during such an uncertain time. There was an intimacy to the moment of giving the shot as each recipient shared about who they were doing this for. I heard stories of sleepless nights, knowing that they had someone special on outbreak floors or with a positive COVID diagnosis. Even if they were nervous or swore they were terrified of needles, each recipient seemed relieved to let go of some of the fear and worry that has been such a huge presence these past months.
As a nurse, most of the time your goal is simple - make people feel better. And that task can be especially difficult right now. But that day, something so simple felt exceptionally meaningful.
Tracy has also volunteered at the Mid-West Toronto Ontario Health Team’s COVID-19 Vaccine clinic at the West End YMCA.
Virginia Shwaluk Parraga, Resident, The Gardens
I found myself supremely excited to hear that I was up for the COVID-19 vaccine in a couple of months even before I finally did get it. We’re on our way back to normalcy, and “it is about time!” My heart was singing!
These were my thoughts. I experienced very little or no pain from the 1st shot. My excitement continued for 28 days until the time was right for me to receive the 2nd shot. Pain for a few days. I could tolerate the pain, and, in a few days, it was done. I was counseled to continue with the same precautions for a few weeks. It has been almost a full month now. There has been no normalcy to date. We continue with all the daily restrictions imposed upon us from Public Health without this magic vaccine.
It has been a year now that we have had these dire restrictions and regulations as a part of our life. It is too long. I continue to be compliant to the regulations. I know it is for our safety. Isn’t that right! I certainly don’t want to die of COVID-19 and neither do you!
I turned 80 on March 3, 2021. Personally, I find that my energy level and passion have dissipated drastically. I love to write, it has been my passion all my life. Now, I can’t think of who or what to write about. When I lay down, I can feel my energy ebb and flow away from me. I must cling to hope.
I am a warrior, and I will continue to fight in this war against the pandemic.
It also helps to recall the number of difficulties and pandemics I have already conquered or escaped.
The psycho-social aspect of the pandemic must be addressed. It should be analyzed, discussed and adjusted. Depression is the ever-present enemy of those who have been confined for long periods of time. We need more than food and shelter to thrive. I feel eternally blessed to have my writing to lean on. The pen has a doubled edged healing aid, and it helps those who write and those who read the writing.
Kensington has done a good job to keep us safe from COVID-19. However, the work has just begun. Keep up the good work Kensington! We still have a long way to go!
Janet Simone, Caregiver at Kensington
I don’t think the vaccine is the magic bullet, but it is going to put us on the map and on the road to recovery. I do strongly believe the vaccine needs to be administered to all of us who can and are able to receive it including patients, residents, caregivers, volunteers, and staff. When I heard that the essential caregivers were able to have the vaccine at Kensington, I was just overjoyed, I was thrilled, and I appreciated it so much. We all appreciate this very much. I am also appreciative about the fact that we can be tested weekly with our partnership with Women’s College at Kensington, that’s another big step forward and a feather in the cap for Kensington.
I have to say I was there the first day of the clinic and there was a sense of jubilation. It was just palatable. It was the most incredible happy day – here we were starting this rollout of the vaccinations. Speaking briefly with John and Bill and the others. I never thought I would be so happy to be vaccinated. It was a wonderful day and a real step forward.