Community raising funds for London, Ont., nurse as family battles COVID-19 in hospital

Support is pouring in for a London, Ont., nurse amid National Nurses Week, as both her parents and her brother battle COVID-19 in hospital.

A GoFundMe page is raising funds to support Amber*, who requested to not use her real name for privacy reasons.

The nurse, who is in her early 20s and works on a COVID-19 unit at the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), has quarantined alone at home for the past two weeks, hoping for her family to recover and come home soon.

“I can’t sleep, I can’t really function well at the moment,” Amber told 980 CFPL.

“It’s been quite the rollercoaster.”

Read more: COVID-19: Fundraiser aims to support Ontario essential workers without paid sick leave

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Her brother, aged 24, and her mother who is in her 50s are both in the ICU.

“They have ventilators going, they’re sedated and they’re not able to talk to me.”

Her father, who is also in his 50s, is hospitalized with COVID-19 but not in the ICU.

The nurse says he’s recovering after suffering a heart attack, which landed him in hospital. A positive COVID-19 test kept him there longer.

On top of this, the nurse’s parents cannot speak English fluently.

“To not be there with them and translate and make sure they’re not scared has been difficult.”

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The family became infected with the virus after an outbreak took place at Cargill, which is where the nurse’s mother worked.

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The outbreak at the poultry processing plant saw at least 116 infections among a total of roughly 900 employees.

“My mom got sick and we all live with her, so my brother got sick shortly after and then my dad got sick shortly after my brother,” she said.

“I brought my mom to the hospital on April 16, and then exactly a week later on April 23, I took my brother in, and then five days later on April 28, I took my dad in.”

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Amber tested positive for COVID-19 once in November 2020, but said she was symptom-free this time.

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A part of her wishes she was the one in hospital while her family remained healthy.

“I would do anything for them… Some days, I wish that I could trade places with my family members and have them all at home,” she said, choking back tears.

“But then again, I wouldn’t want them to be as scared and anxious as I am every day, not knowing whether everyone is going to be okay or not.”

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Read more: Future nurses, doctors hope COVID-19 pandemic creates better health-care system

Despite the challenges she and her family have experienced over the past month, Amber says the amount of community support she’s received reminds her that better days are up ahead.

“I’m so thankful for the support from my colleagues for this opportunity and for people to donate to the GoFundMe page.”

“In my worst times, they’ve managed to make me feel better, so I’m forever grateful for that.”

Dannie Fenn, a registered practical nurse at University Hospital, set up Amber’s GoFundMe with another colleague after learning about Amber’s struggles.

Speaking to 980 CFPL, Fenn said prior to setting up the campaign, their nurse colleagues sent Amber a “big e-transfer” of money.

“We wanted to get her a care package since she’s been at home isolating for a week now and she’s in a pretty terrible situation,” she said. “Within the nurses on the unit, we raised about $2,500.”

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In addition, friends, family and other nurses have also reached out to Amber. Her family doctor has scheduled a mental health check after her quarantine period ends this Wednesday at midnight.

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Until her family is back home and healthy again, the nurse says she won’t return to work.

“I can’t imagine taking care of patients while I have my own family in hospital. As of right now, I’m the substitute decision maker for everyone. All inquiries are directed towards me so I can’t imagine missing a very important call while I’m working.”

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The nurse is also extending her gratitude to her fellow nurses who are working hard to care for her family and other patients.

“I’m so thankful for them… (My family) is in the best place possible, and they’re getting really good care.”

The GoFundMe page can be found here.

— With files from 980 CFPL’s Andrew Graham

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