January 25, 2020. Think back. What were you doing when you first became aware of a new viral threat that arrived in Canada on an airplane? It was the start of a long two years as we panicked, adapted, struggled and thrived as a nation. And although this has been an incredibly difficult time for many of us, Michener’s Alumni Association sees the second anniversary of the pandemic as an opportunity to share our perspectives on how we’ve grown on a personal level. We are MLTs, MRTs, RTs and Anesthesia Assistants. We are you.
What did we miss most during the pandemic? Human touch. The ability to reach out to a friend or family member in need. We adapted to elbow bumps and big smiles behind masks, hoping our eyes could convey our feelings. We missed the ability to extend a small physical gesture to a patient in need. We missed the little things: coffee with friends after work, concerts and festivals. We missed the big things: milestone birthdays, weddings and funerals. We missed comforting family members in hospitals – they were there, all alone. We missed being squished together in our regular collective experiences: on the subway, at the Blue Jays game, at New Years Eve celebrations, movie theatres and mosques, temples or churches. We missed the ability to feel nothing more alarming than “I better wash my hands when I get home” and struggled to adapt to the constant fear of catching COVID-19 and spreading it to friends, family, patients and the public.
As we forge ahead to endemic, what will you look forward to? For us, we look forward to seeing faces again, smiles, hugs and yes, even some kisses. We look forward to travel, unimpeded. Oh, the places we’ll go! Back to the motherland, to beaches, to international hot spots, to busy cities and to see family, friends and have adventures. We long to board airplanes without hesitation. Some of us look forward to getting back into individual or group sports: the gym, yoga, dance studios and baseball diamonds.
What are we not going to miss about the pandemic? For one Association member, it’s boarding an airplane at 7:00am for a meeting in Ottawa – no thanks! Some of us can’t wait to see the end of virtual meetings, complete with “your mic’s not on.” We are not going to miss the overwhelming abundance of social media opinions on the pandemic. We sure aren’t going to miss people complaining about lockdowns and phrases like “I’m just done with it.”
But just like you, our pandemic experiences were not all difficult. We changed jobs, finished school, changed cities, adopted a kitten, finished a stalled MBA, started an MBA and one of us completed the Anesthesia Assistant program at Michener – embarking on a new career.
We did things like travel, just differently. As always, family remained important. One of us made it back to Tanzania for a final farewell to an ailing father. One Association member celebrated their first wedding anniversary in Calgary, another celebrated their second anniversary in Vancouver – focusing on making memories in the pandemic. Through 23 and Me, someone found a long-lost cousin given up for adoption in 1969 and re-connected with their family. We lost family, we gained family, we solidified friendships and said goodbye to others. The pandemic was a time for contemplation, resetting of priorities and focusing on what matters most.
Celebrations were had! We accepted awards, hosted events and welcomed new babies. One of us earned a global award for launching monumental program delivery changes at a Sunday school with over 550 students. This program became a model for others in North America, the UK, Africa and Australia.
We adapted. We discovered hidden or latent talents like a flair for Paint by Numbers. We got caught up on movies, TV series and books! One of us organized a pandemic wedding of 33 people who took on roles like bridesmaid, decorator, chauffeur, Zoom moderator, food delivery, you name it. We laughed. We cried. We faced despair. We fretted. And yet, we pulled our scrubs or lab coats on and went to work. We entered the belly of the beast daily – the health care system – because the world needed us. We built resiliency. Fortitude. Strength. Compassion. We lifted others when they needed a hand and silently accepted the help of others when we needed it.
What’s your pandemic story? We’d love to hear it!
Christine Nielsen – Med Lab, class of 1997
Meaghan Stayzer – Radiation Therapy, class of 2021
Shelina Dhalla – Nuclear Medicine, class of 2000
Eliza Ung – Respiratory Therapy, class of 2017
Raquel Rubinoff – Respiratory Therapy, class of 2017
Ruvette Coehlo – Radiation Therapy, class of 2011