In 2020 when COVID was not yet a household word, and the virus was creeping through our cities and towns, nursing homes were just about the most dangerous places to be. St. Ignatius Nursing & Rehab, a Felician healthcare ministry in Philadelphia, PA, like so many other facilities, was thrown into a sink or swim situation filled with grief and gumption.
Sr. Patricia Talone, RSM, Ph.D., chair of the St. Ignatius Nursing & Rehab Center Board of Trustees, came up with the idea to capture the impact of the pandemic on film. The 15-minute documentary Our COVID Journey takes viewers into the lives of the leaders and staff who together witnessed and prevailed over the most historic medical event of our time.
In the film, Steve Annable of the St. Ignatius Nutrition Management department remembered when he was experiencing symptoms and had to isolate. “When I was stuck at home for that week, it kind of got to me. I very much care for my residents. It's more than just a job; we are their family. They are allowing us to come into their home on a daily basis and not being able to provide that support hurt."
At one point, St. Ignatius President & CEO Susan McCrary felt her own strength ebbing. “One of our residents passed away. They brought her down, were wheeling her out the door. We just looked at each other, we cried and hugged. And I knew we shouldn't have hugged because it wasn't socially distant, but I just couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't take constantly rolling out these people that we loved,” she said through tears. “It was so hard, but I knew I needed to be strong for everybody here, so I tried to get myself together and move on."
To honor the victims, a tree adorned with hearts bearing the death dates of residents was placed in the lobby with a sign reading, "Remembering those who have transitioned to New Life."
The short film effectively covers the journey from confusion, shock, and grief, to acceptance, adaptation and perseverance.
McCrary explained, "Nursing facilities have been one of the most challenging places to be during the pandemic. We serve the frailest individuals that are on our planet. The precautions we have had to take and continue to take are very taxing and stressful sometimes, but that's what we signed up to do and that's what we have done and we have done it well.”