SARS – PART IV – April 2003 JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU ARE ALONE

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The conversation with the Administrator began on a tense note. I couldn’t believe he was so calm and seemed not to comprehend the implications of placing the ‘suspected SARS patients’ in the same building as the long-term care residents. He continually pointed out they (who ‘they’ were I had no idea), were almost certain that the virus could not be transmitted into the long-term care section. He went on to explain that the building was built with separate ventilation systems and that persons working in the ‘suspected SARS unit’ would be using separate entrances and exits. All precautions would be in place. Food would be separately delivered to the SARS unit and persons working there would be changing their uniforms at work and not taking the uniform home. I began to feel that this was a political move on his part. He was working closely with the York Region Acting Medical Officer of Health and he continually said that all provisions were initiated. I felt the more I tried to interject to question him, the further he went on to explain the exact procedures over and over in various words. I wanted to make sure he knew that no matter what precautions were used, I knew that mistakes could happen. All that was needed was one person to slip up. Since no one truly understood this virus and it was killing people, I was not going to let my Mom or any of the other Residents continue to be at risk.

I constantly read out loud the ‘Resident Bill of Rights’ to him, yet he didn’t seem phased. ‘What about the staff at Woodlawn acres?’ I would say, ‘where are their rights’? He never replied.

I was also amazed, and honestly angry, at how it seemed like I had been talking to the wall or myself. There was no back and forth. He asked me what my fears were and I told him over and over again, so much so, that it sounded like a broken record. But, I felt no matter what I said, this was a go. I was hurt, angry, and helpless. It was nearing the end of the conversation when one of my co-workers entered the office and I waved her over to me. She gave me a perplexed look, but I raised my hand to indicate that I wanted her to witness the end of our conversation. As the Administrator seemed to be gearing down in his explanations that never changed, I said,

‘So, are you telling me, through all of my concerns, that you will be going ahead with the ‘suspected SARS unit’ at Woodlawn Acres?’

My co-worker stood beside me while I tilted the phone between the two of us.

‘Yes, we will be continuing with the unit’, he said.

‘Ok and Thank you’, I said as I slammed the phone down.

My co-worker looked at me like she had seen a ghost right before she said,

‘What an ass-hole!’

‘My thoughts exactly’, I said. ‘I’m not sure what his agenda is, but if it takes my last breath, I am going to fight this.’

‘I hope so, what are you going to do next?’ she asked.

‘I’m not really sure, I guess I’ll call the social worker at the facility again to give her an update on the conversation, then, I probably will call my husband and let him know.’

‘Yeah, he’s a photographer at the Toronto Sun, right?’

‘Yep’, I said.

‘Maybe he can do something’, she said.

Oh god, I didn’t want to talk to the press, I was not good at speaking when under pressure. I wasn’t sure I could make any sense of what was happening myself, never mind explain it to the press. This was picking up speed at an incredible rate and I felt at this point, I couldn’t stop it.

I told my co-worker I was going to stay in the office and make the call to the social worker and then my husband, then figure out the next step from there.

She nodded her head and said ‘Go Paula’ giving me thumbs up, while slowly shutting the door behind her.

I was alone again with my thoughts and it seemed, alone in the world.

 

© 2014 Paula Bilz. All Rights Reserved.

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