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Sharing Our Faith Stories: Lani Kerbl

Sunday August 9, 2020

My name is Lani Kerbl. I’ll give you a little general background of my faith journey.

I was raised Catholic, In high school, I was a member of the inter school Christian fellowship, and had a couple of years walking the walk of a “born again” Baptist. I sang in church choirs, folk choirs, and finally landed at the United Church with my husband and 3 children. Bridgeport then Parkminster. 

While deciding my career path, I worked at the YMCA in the swimming pool and at camps. I studied Therapeutic Recreation at University of Waterloo and music at Mohawk college. I enjoyed facilitating recreation programs for people of all ages from babies, children with special needs and seniors

I have always had a passion for music, history and trivia–a perfect fit to be a recreation professional in long term care. I see my work not only as a job but a vocation. I have been gifted with the talents and skills to do this work..God’s work.  

My Faith Journey in a pandemic, working in Long term Care

COVID-19, March 11,2020. Here we go… , setting up to screen all staff  and visitors. 

This is reminiscent of SARas or so I thought. I also worked in LTC at that time. Being quarantined and restricting visitors and outside entertainment is not new to LTC.. Every time 3 people have Flu symptoms, we isolate the home area and cohort staff to work in only 1 area.

March 20- temperatures taken 

We in the Recreation Department are used to providing entertaining and rewarding activities to the residents, usually in groups. At first we were limited to entertainment groups of less than 20 people, then our own groups limited to 10 then 5. Eventually only 1:1.

April 2 – all staff to wear masks at all times,  Have you ever tried to communicate with people who are hard of hearing and have dementia when they can’t see your face? It is not easy. Try explaining what COVID-19 virus is and why their families can’t come in and see them.  They feel alone!

We, the staff need to be their surrogate families and provide sole physical contact… it is recommended that we also distance ourselves from the residents—but we are right next to them helping at every meal and the PSW staff have the closest contact while providing persona care.  So… we are happy to give a hug or hold a hand when needed and time allows.

That’s what we DO

How working makes me FEEL—a much different story

At first work felt like the safest place to be. We had PPE in place before public health mandated it.

We could not see our own parents or children or grand children, but we could see and give support to the parent and grand parents of the resident’s family members.  Feel Good opportunities!!!

Feeling of FEAR!

At first I felt safe, until Covid-19 cases spread like wildfire in other LTC homes. The possibility of covid entering our home was always in the back of my mind.

When I was driving every day from Kitchener to Elmira reaching the traffic circle in St Jacobs, I needed to decide whether I felt comfortable going to work or to keep going around the circle and head back home.  I said a little prayer to keep everyone at work virus free.

I had a persistent feeling of impending doom. If just 1 staff member had covid 19 and passed it on to residents…we could be in grave danger. This weighed heavy on me.

June 11th

Finally, our residents and staff are having nasal swabs and being tested. Woo Hoo!  If you haven’t had one yet, you are in for a treat, It kind of feels like they are scraping your brain. But truly I am glad to be tested. I always feel better knowing than being kept in the dark.

Yeh! Everyone ‘s tests came back negative. BIG relief.

June 26 The second Covid swab testing. 

July 2 I received a text from my manager in the evening that 1 staff member’s test came back positive. Here we go, my worst fears realized. Work is now in full pandemic mode!  All staff in masks and face shields. No group programs anywhere in the building. Residents are supposed to stay in their rooms at all times.

July 3 I came in to work, having previously told my manager that I did not want to be on the home area where the virus was.  So I  was OK thinking that I’d be screening at the front door and not with the residents. The program dept. had a quick meeting and I was asked to go to my regular home area as they were very short staffed.

I discovered that my home area was where the staff member who tested positive had been working.  Now I am trapped. I went directly to look after 1 resident needing constant 1:1 supervision, then 3 residents then 5 !  After 1 ½ hrs of helping the residents eat breakfast and constantly reminding them and physically assisting them to stay seated in their wheelchairs, I was relieved by a staff member just coming on shift to the home area. It dawned on me that I had touched residents more often in the past hour and ½ than in 3 months combined. I left the home area, I was overwhelmed! Afraid that a resident exposed to the virus would pass it on to Me!  I felt that if I caught the virus, I would not survive it.

I HAD A FULL BLOWN MENTDOWN. My manager, the infection control nurse and the director of nursing were all witness. They tried to reassure me that the chances were very low of contracting the virus and that the positive test results were being considered as a Possible case. It was only 11am and It would have been nice to have a good stiff drink. Instead I texted my family and close friends—All of whom I had seen since the last negative test results. My sons, grand son, daughter in Killarney, Parents, and friends both in town and up north.

I had to decide to stay or to go home. This is when prayer came into play.  I do believe that I was gifted by God with the skills to do the work I do. So… who am I to walk away from the task God set before me?

Reasoning outweighed the fears. I knew that once I was working in an exposed area, I could not work anywhere else. I was calmed by the knowledge that my chances of exposure were extremely low, so I stayed.  After a day or 2 I felt more comfortable, NOT HAPPY, but more comfortable.

Besides, I live alone, and I don’t do well all alone. It has been a blessing to be able to be with people every day and feel needed throughout this pandemic.  

July 7 BIG relief!!  The team member has a second test which was negative and was in to work.  No outbreak!!Yeh!!

Public Health in their wisdom decided, that we would have to continue with our current outbreak procedure for 2 full weeks. Masks and shield, but thankfully no gowns – (this was a 30+ degree weather week.)

Now that the scare of an outbreak is over, family visits could resume both outside and inside.  The entire workplace relaxed and was much less tense. The residents are thrilled to be able to see their families again, (masked of course). Sometimes visits are teary but definitely better than feeling alone and scared.

I searched for a verse about overcoming fear and God being there for us. Romans 8 :18-30 came up and it spoke to me. It talks about suffering in the present and being set free as children of God and hoping for a better future.

 I also found comfort in the passage where the Spirit makes intercession for us to God when we can not find the words, or prayers or strength to do it ourselves.

Verse 28 says it best “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”

I just need to remember that I am never alone, and that God is always with me.  I also need to pray more often giving thanks for my safety and the safety of my family and all of those at work.

I would like to thank Heather and Jo for asking me to share this journey with you and thank them for the mid week check in phone calls, providing zoom church every Sunday and the cards and well wishes from my church family

Stay Safe!!   And Wear a mask!!