The pandemic reveals who we are. These are our stories #BehindtheMask.
Share your story at

Nadira Hiralal

Nadira Hiralal

Community Addiction Worker

Before COVID I worked as an addictions counsellor. I was redeployed as a screener at one of the entrances of the hospital at the beginning of COVID. After a week, my partner and I moved to separate floors at home because he is immunocompromised.  I have been living in the basement since. I think it was best for both of us. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I got COVID and passed it on to him.

We have two self-contained floors with washrooms, so we decided that we were going to set up the basement with a fridge and a kettle and a toaster. At the beginning it was tough. I’d wake up at 4:30 in the morning and leave the house at 5:30. I was working for nine or 10 hours at first. Sometimes patients or their support person would get frustrated and yell or swear at us screeners. As an addictions worker, with lots of patience and years of experience,  I was able to de-escalate some of the situations.

Sometimes I would sit on the stairs and eat just so I could see him and talk about my day.

After work I’d go home and I’d lay alone in the basement. It was still winter and it was cold. My partner and I couldn’t eat meals together. We couldn’t watch TV together. For the first two months he was cooking and giving me food by the stairs. Sometimes I would sit on the stairs and eat just so I could see him and talk about my day. 

In the basement, I’d lay there and I’d look at all my stuff and think the material things don’t matter anymore. Since the pandemic I stopped shopping because I started putting things and life into perspective. Those are just things. What really matters? Things like a hug, or sitting or cuddling with your partner.

I have bought a really nice soft blanket. It feels very comforting. It’s nice and warm. I just wanted something that could replace some of the things that I am missing.

Nadira Hiralal is a Community Addiction Worker at St. Joseph’s Health Centre. She was redeployed to become one of the hospital’s first screeners.

As told to Christy Janssens. Photos by Medical Media. This interview has been edited and condensed.