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Coping with the pandemic at home and work

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By on June 1, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many hardships for everyone, whether it is affecting people directly or they are empathizing with the pain a loved one is feeling. For those who work in health care, the additional stresses at work and home collide. Uzo Onochie, a parishioner at Epiphany Anglican Church, has experienced the pandemic from multiple perspectives — as an essential frontline worker, a pharmacist with the Ottawa General Hospital Cancer Centre providing care for patients, and as a mother helping her children deal with the impact of the pandemic in their lives. Crosstalk asked her how she and her family  have coped.

From the early days of the pandemic, Onochie like other workers in the hospital, had to adjust to a new routine and safety protocols. Every day of work, every worker must complete a COVID screening test to ensure they are safe and healthy to work. For many people this has meant they must come to work much earlier than the start time of their shift to ensure they have enough time to do the screening. There are many people who begin their shifts at the same time, and they must all come in through very specific doors. Onochie had to get used to wearing protective gear (PPE)  all day, which can be uncomfortable. However, those procedures help her feel safe. The hospital does a very good job at enforcing steps to follow to ensure the safety of staff and patients, she says. “I could be even safer going to the hospital than going to the mall,” she says she reassures herself.

As a pharmacist at the Ottawa General Hospital, Onochie helps care for patients in the cancer centre. During the first wave of the pandemic, many patients, especially the elderly were afraid to come into the hospital to have their cancer treated or to have minor sickness treated, presuming that the hospitals might be a likely place where one could contract the virus. They stayed home with the belief that they could overcome whatever they were facing. Some of the people who waited too long became very sick and needed to be admitted to hospital. This made it really hard for the doctors, nurses and pharmacists to treat them, according to Onochie, who was relieved that people began to feel more comfortable coming to the hospital for treatments as researchers learned more about the virus and how people could protect themselves and others.

Onochie is the  mother of two children; her son is in high school and her daughter started university in September. The pandemic has had negative effects on both of them. Onochie’s son plays competitive baseball, and it is very important to him. Unfortunately, all the games were halted and not playing ball has been very difficult for him.

 Social interaction is vital in the development of youth. Restrictions and systems such as sending students to school one day and learning online the next has proven to be a challenge… The schools have separated students into cohorts, so friends may be separated from friends in another cohort.

It’s also been a challenging year for Onochie’s daughter, who was excited about living in residence and having the full experience of her first year of university. Her excitement crashed down when she had to do all her classes online in isolation from home.

Onochie understands the challenges her children are experiencing but is thankful that they continue to be safe and healthy. Due to the increased time spent at home, they have more opportunity to share how they feel with each other. She adores their family time, and the pandemic has given their family more time to spend together.

Onochie feels that her church, Epiphany  in Ottawa, has done an amazing job providing  support to its members and keeping them all connected. When the church was no longer allowed to hold indoor services, the Rev. Alana McCord and the choir leader every Sunday came together to do a live service for the faith community.  She says that Rev. Alana also kept everyone informed and connected  by email. This spring, the Epiphany parish had a change in clergy, saying goodbye to Rev. Alana and welcoming the Rev. Arran Thorpe. “I have been able to attend a couple services with Rev. Arran.  I think he’s doing a fantastic job, especially under these circumstances,” said Onochie. “I can’t wait to get to know him more when the pandemic comes to an end!”  

That’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Until then, Onochie, like many people, continues to deal with the impact of the pandemic and to look for the good things it brings along the way.

Jennifer Omoike is a YIP intern with Crosstalk.

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