Are we there yet?
It’s a question we have all heard that usually indicates the trip has been way too long. We can certainly say that about this past year!! It has been filled with stops and starts, bumps and potholes, and some very sharp twists and turns that have made us all a little nervous and fearful. It has even stopped us in our tracks a few times.
But there is a light at the end of this tunnel that gives us all hope. There are now multiple companies developing what appears to be an effective vaccine (in fact one is now approved for use) to combat the COVID-19 virus — a virus that has taken us all on an arduous journey through 2020. So much has been lost, but we have also learned to be resilient, strong and patient. And volunteers are notoriously flexible!! We are always ready to do what is needed for our hospitals and our communities.
In Orange County which — like most of the state — is under a stay-at-home order, some of its 20-plus hospitals have not brought back their volunteers. At my hospital, Providence Mission Hospital (which as locations in both Mission Viejo and Laguna Beach), we were furloughed in mid-March, but we began bringing volunteers back in September in certain areas: reception desk, shuttle drivers, campus guides, and day managers, with no age restrictions. In October, our gift shop opened for four hours per day, and some units welcomed the return of a few volunteers. It was obvious that we were missed by the staff. Our volunteer board meets virtually each month, but we have canceled all group meetings and events. And last week, my hospital re-instated the no visitor restrictions (excluding the pediatric units). We continue to make a few steps forward and a few steps back. Sound familiar??
Like many of you, our auxiliary has been a fundraising source for our hospital, and we hope to continue those efforts soon. Normally, we would hold a “Light Up A Life” ceremony in December to raise funds for hospice and palliative care services, but this year we are promoting this event solely as a mail-in donation, with an outreach throughout our community. We are hopeful that it will be successful, because the need right now is overwhelming.
Our Orange County Council of Hospital Volunteers continues to function and is one of the last councils still active in our state. We have not had a meeting with all our hospitals since January, but our council board continues to meet virtually. We have been able to reach out to all our hospital leaders and we stay in touch through news bulletins and emails.
However, as COVID-19 wears on, we have all become painfully aware of what we CANNOT do: …… have a leisurely dinner inside a restaurant, enjoy a movie, go to the theater, have friends over for a party, or volunteer time at our hospitals. All that has been replaced with social distancing, hand sanitizing, face masks, stay-at-home orders, avoiding crowds, and a host of other restrictions that have changed our daily lives. But there are still some things that we CAN do.
We can enjoy a lovely walk along the beach or at the park, catch up on our reading, phone our friends and check in with family, do some gardening, tackle those home repairs, get that photo album updated, and most importantly, continue to volunteer, even if that means doing it at home for now. I know there are always projects to be done — whether it is stuffing envelopes, logging in to a CAHHS Zoom educational session, reaching out to fellow volunteers, organizing gift bags for our nurses, or collecting food donations. And, hopefully soon, we may be manning a vaccine clinic for staff!!
Yes, there is no doubt that this pandemic has changed our lives dramatically. But with the new year right around the corner, I think there is a light at the end of this LONG tunnel. Our volunteering will be different, and it will cause us all to re-evaluate what we do and how we do it. But my hope is that we will all continue to be instruments of healing and comfort in our hospitals and in our communities, to feel valued and fulfilled and know that we will get past this stressful time.
Are we there yet? Not quite yet, but there is reason to be hopeful as we travel to the new year!! Stay safe, and I wish you all a beautiful holiday season and only bountiful health and happiness in 2021.