When the pandemic started last March, I was off on maternity leave. I was in a bubble of love with my new baby. I knew COVID was out there and it had stopped some of the things we were doing. I was so engrossed in my little baby that I didn’t care about the rest of the world. This wave, I’m a lot more aware of everything.
I moved here from Ireland four years ago and my previous role in Canada was in community nursing. I started at St. Joe’s at the end of August. I was starting work at a new place and returning to work from maternity leave. It was my first time as a full-time working mom, I’m living abroad away from the support of family and then you throw a pandemic in the middle of it. It was madness, really. Everyone needs you at work and everyone needs you at home. I’ve only been with St. Joe’s for about 6 months and it feels like 6 years because so much has happened.
I’m very grateful for the experience I’ve gained over the past few months. Michael, my manager, Susan, my team lead, and the 6G team have been so amazing. They’ve been through an outbreak, but it’s made them better as a team. We are like a little family to be honest. It always makes you want to go back there.
Treating COVID patients is so scary – so many people are dying from this and you’re facing it. But it’s also like, ‘it’s scary for you, but can you imagine how scary it is for the patient?’ I was on shift one day in December, and Susan sent me to Emergency. I had to get my appendix out and was in hospital overnight. Not having someone able to come see you and bring you something you need was hard. Can you imagine for the patient lying there having COVID and being really sick? You’re scared to go in, but they are even more scared.
It was my first time as a full-time working mom, I’m living abroad away from the support of family and then you throw a pandemic in the middle of it. It was madness, really.
But there are also great things happening too. We have vaccinated a lot of patients and we will continue to do so. There are better days ahead.
I think some people think nurses go to work, save lives and look after people. But it’s so much more than that. Sometimes it’s mentally draining because everyone needs you and everybody is looking for you. When you’re explaining it to someone else, I don’t think they understand because you have to be in the situation to understand. My sister is a nurse in Ireland and she gets it. I’m grateful for that.
My partner has also been an absolute saint putting up with me. He’s been great with the baby. Sometimes I stay late at work, work overtime or pick up extra shifts. I’m working a lot and feel like I’m not there as much as I should be. I’m grateful he’s there for her and that she won’t remember all this madness. And hopefully as she gets older, this will all be over. I don’t know how we’ll describe the pandemic to her. I don’t have words to explain it.
Claire Derrig is a Registered Nurse in the 6G Unit at St. Joseph’s Health Centre. She also worked on 4E as a Registered Nurse and the Reactivation Care Centre – Church Unit as a Team Lead during the pandemic.
As told to Natalie Leung. Photos by Katie Cooper. This interview has been edited and condensed.