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HEALING STORIES

Debbie’s Story

Aug 6, 2021

“My experience with COVID-19 reinforced my belief that our character is shaped by the challenges we face in life. I know we face peaks and valleys in our lives and these experiences help us see things in a different light. COVID focused that light on my beliefs and strengthened my view of the power of hope, its relationship to healing and its ability to cope with fear of the unknown. My illness forced my family and me into an uncertain future and we did not know what would happen to me. Hope led us to the way forward.

I contracted COVID-19 in April 2020, when much was still unknown about the virus. Within one day, what I thought were mild allergy symptoms quickly turned into a feeling that an elephant was sitting on my chest and I was very sick for 18 days. I had every documented symptom of COVID, and because it was very early in the pandemic, there were still many questions regarding the treatment and trajectory of the virus. There are days during my illness that I cannot recall. But throughout those 18 days, I held on to hope and had deep faith in the gift of family, friends and coworkers. I was fortunate to have the love and support of a “village” of people surrounding me and giving me the strength to fight. My family, my physician, my church family
and my coworkers all gave me the courage and power to fight the virus.

Prior to contracting COVID, I was training for a triathlon and exercising up to two times a day, taking private swimming lessons and working full-time as the director of activities for a continuing care retirement community that provides skilled nursing care, memory care and sub-acute care. I trained rigorously and was laser-focused on my goal to be able to compete in the triathlon when COVID hit me. I truly feel that my physical training allowed my body to fight the virus and begin to heal. It has been 14 months since my illness and the long-term effects of COVID continue to follow me. It is taking time for my body to get back to a “new normal.” I did not bounce back as quickly as I would have liked, however, my illness made me realize how much power hope has in the healing process.

My experience has reaffirmed my commitment to positively impacting the quality of life every day for my co-workers and residents at the continuing care retirement community where I work. Bringing joy to each and every one of our residents is my mission and I will continue to live my life full of zest, faith, energy and passion. No one ever said life would be easy and it is our challenges in life that test our true character and allows our strength to shine.

*If you know of a NJ Healthcare Worker who can be celebrated during these trying times, please fill out a request form or email hc-worker@ubhc.rutgers.edu their contact information including their name, email, and a little more about them along with a picture in PPE*