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Mick Lowe: My life inside an Ontario nursing home amid a global pandemic

We asked the veteran Sudbury journalist and Pioneer Manor resident to give us his thoughts on COVID-19

Of course, outbreaks of infectious diseases are nothing new for us here at Pioneer Manor — every fall means a return of the dreaded “cold and flu season.” And I do mean “dreaded.”  

Because we are a clustered, physically segregated segment of society’s most vulnerable and infirm, we are at constant risk of catching or propagating an infectious disease, and they watch us like hawks.

Especially the infectious disease control mavens at Public Health Sudbury and District who monitor each sniffle, every sneeze, the tiniest trace of fever, ready to declare the word we most loathe to hear: “outbreak.” 

It always seems to me the word should be accompanied with a shrill scream and an exclamation “outbreak!”

Because then bad things start to happen: activities are cancelled — so are outings — the group gatherings that enliven our sometimes bleak, childless existence here end swiftly. 

A quick succession of drastic events follows: stout steel doors swing shut and lock behind us, walling off each “living unit” (picture a hospital ward). The idea is to control and isolate the disease, but the psychological effect is terrifying.  

Why is this happening? On whose orders? And, more to the point: how long will it last? 

We are powerless. No more visits from loved ones, if ours is a living unit under outbreak. No more fresh air. No more freedom of the city. (To reassure us, we are not imprisoned — we are carefully told that we cannot, legally, ultimately, be denied permission to leave the building, but … (and here it is left to our imagination — my own strays to Nurse Ratched giving the Stink Eye to Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.)

But this?

This is far worse. The biggest difference: this time the lockdown is total. Not only is just a single living unit under “outbreak,” but so is the whole building. Hell, the whole city. No one except essential personnel allowed into the Manor, no one out. And that includes me … 

Bad as that is, the worst effect by far is on my love life.  

(Yes, Virginia, even septuagenarian geezers locked away in nursing homes are allowed some kind of love life), but nowadays … 

To be continued. 

A long-time columnist with Northern Life, Mick Lowe served two terms as president of the residents’ council at Pioneer Manor from 2011-2014. A prolific author, his most recent book is Wintersong, the third volume of the The Nickel Range Trilogy. We asked Mick to write about what it's like living at a long-term care home during COVID-19, and he delivered. It looks like he plans on writing us another column on the topic. You can also check out our story about efforts to keep Greater Sudbury's nursing homes free of COVID-19, when the virus has been deadly in so many care homes.




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