Laurie, Midland County

Storyteller: Samantha Grywalsky

Laurie, a devoted healthcare worker and self-proclaimed gym-enthusiast is a 52 year old Midland resident with a bright, bubbly personality. Every weekday, she wakes up at the crack of dawn to get ready for work, her place of employment for over twenty years; a nursing home in Bay City.

Laurie is a Certified Therapeutic Recreational Specialist and works primarily with memory-care residents suffering from diseases like dementia or Alzheimers. She utilizes recreational therapy using tools such as crafts, cooking classes, card games, or movie nights to build connections and keep her residents’ spirits high and minds active. Laurie excels at what she does and is devoted to her residents very deeply.

Like many, Laurie became overwhelmed with her workload during the pandemic. Her nursing home became a COVID hot spot; over 30 of her residents were positive for the virus. The death toll was astronomical, nearly everyone who contracted it died. She watched in helplessness and horror as her patients withered away mentally and physically, unable to touch, hug, or kiss their loved ones. Most of the residents did not understand the lockdown, and thought they were being punished or trapped as they were sentenced to solitary confinement. Laurie’s activities halted, there was no longer mental stimulation or friendly embraces for the residents.

Laurie’s heart broke as she watched her residents die alone in their rooms, without the companionship of their families or friends. Laurie’s sadness turned to raging anger as she witnessed anti-mask protesters in the grocery stores and read COVID hoax propaganda online. Some of her coworkers suffered the same deadly fate as the residents. As CNAs and housekeepers rapidly resigned, stating that the poor compensation wasn’t worth the risk of infecting their families, Laurie realized how dire the situation was. 

In the death and tragedy that followed her around, Laurie became hyper-aware of her surroundings. She was constantly looking over her shoulder in public, terrified someone would be too close to her six-foot bubble. She was no longer attending her three-times-weekly exercise classes, too afraid of being responsible for re-infecting her residents.

However, Laurie refused to lose her spark, and still wears a smile behind her mask every day. She’s made an extra effort to include socially-distanced activities at her nursing home, such as doorway bingo or karaoke. She spends time at home with her four family members, and over quarantine they’ve found a new hobby they enjoy at home – 1,000 piece puzzles and lots of drinking games.

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