My most vivid memory of this pandemic was just over a year ago now, in the early stages when there was so much uncertainty, and it felt like the entire world was in lockdown. I remember driving in to work on the 401 and how empty it was. It was a truly eerie feeling; almost like I was driving right on to the set of a post-apocalyptic movie. For the lone drivers that I would encounter making their way to and from work, there was almost a weary acknowledgment in the way of a nod that we were in this together.
The Redevelopment team isn’t always top of mind when you think of a health care team. We don’t provide clinical services and we’re not on the front lines with our partners in maintenance or environmental services. But our job is to design and build spaces that are as functional, useful and safe as possible for our staff and patients. We coordinate construction and renovations, manage how our spaces get assigned and modified, lead the planning for upgrades and future developments for the hospital, and we pull together all the stakeholders needed to facilitate that work.
We had a huge role in setting up the COVID-19 Assessment Centre and the vaccine clinic at St. Joseph’s.
I tend to put up a very strong yet cheerful front, but there have been some really tough days. I know that everyone is going through these rolling emotional tidal waves, so I’ve tried to keep that in perspective, but the magnitude of it all eventually catches up to you.
Helping open the vaccine clinic was invigorating. I was filled with so much emotion, the emotion of contributing to such a major milestone in fighting COVID-19. We started planning for it right before Christmas, so already it was an intense time of year. Then, the Sunday before everyone came back from the holidays, we got notice that vaccine clinic needed to open the following Saturday – six days later – so every plan we had in place had to be escalated. We crunched everything in while still making sure we were executing this safely and efficiently. The collaboration I felt, the comradery, it was phenomenal. The feat of everyone coming together and working together towards a common goal, I’ll take that with me throughout my career.
What I’ve learned about myself during this pandemic is just how much I value my personal relationships and my work relationships. I’ve always been very ‘I can do this on my own’ but this pandemic really brought to light how much I need my friends, family and good supportive co-workers in my life.
I tend to put up a very strong yet cheerful front, but there have been some really tough days. I know that everyone is going through these rolling emotional tidal waves, so I’ve tried to keep that in perspective, but the magnitude of it all eventually catches up to you. Now, when those challenging days hit, I focus on gratitude and I feel thankful that I’ve been employed for the duration of the pandemic. And that myself and my family have remained relatively healthy through it all. Just talking about this brings tears to my eyes.
Gillian Brunning is a Project Manager for the Redevelopment team at St. Joseph’s Health Centre.
As told to Selma Al-Samarrai. Photos by Medical Media. This interview has been edited and condensed.