South Plainfield, NJ- As the rest of the country adheres to the stay at home orders, AristaCare’s staff has been running into the fire, oftentimes forgoing their own safety in order to care for others. Unfortunately, these selfless acts have led to staff getting sick, quarantining themselves and being unable to come to work. With 14 facilities throughout NJ and PA AristaCare has been lucky enough to be able to pull staff from areas less impacted by COVID-19, who are volunteering their time and love.
Meet one of our many “Healthcare Hero’s”, Staci Porter. Staci is from Erie, Pa, located about 120 miles North of Pittsburgh. After spending 17 years as an accountant, Staci decided she wanted to get into the healthcare field becoming a CNA. As COVID took hold of many of AristaCare’s NJ facilities, Staci volunteered to travel 6 hours to Cedar Oaks, to lend a hand in whatever way necessary.
With only 1 year of service in the field, we asked why she felt such a sense of duty as she volunteered to leave her family and travel 6 hours to come help those in need. “We live in an area where there are not many COVID positive cases. Where I live there were a total of 16 in the entire county. Your team needed help and I looked at it this way, my 1 brother had 3 tours of duty in Iraq, my other brother served in Afghanistan, and my son is now serving in the Navy. If my family can fight for our country, then I can certainly do my part for its people who need help. Even if my training is limited as an aid, I can still help where I can… watching for signs of a fever, giving someone a drink of water if they are thirsty, or simply showing love to someone who is passing…that is something”.
Although she misses her family, home cooked meals, and nowadays… sleep, she explains how rewarding this experience has been for her. “It has opened my eyes to what the rest of the world is experiencing”. She says the most rewarding experience has been the privilege of holding someone’s hand when their family cannot be there to hold it. Letting that person know, they were not just left alone and that they are loved. “The biggest reward is making someone smile. I love making people smile, even if they are smiling because of one of my bad jokes”.
When asked what the hardest part of this experience has been, she mentioned working with the language barrier on the Indian culture unit. AristaCare at Cedar Oaks has a specialty Indian culture program. The program is specific to patients of Indian culture. They eat traditional Indian meals, participate in daily prayers, and their home languages are spoken by aids, nurses, and therapists. Working through the language barrier is difficult, but love can be shown through many ways. However, the most difficult part of this whole experience is keeping the tears back when you know someone is about to pass.
Seeing and treating COVID patients is scary. We see their suffering and fear. When asked what Staci’s biggest fear is, she replied, “I really am not afraid of much. I am a huge family person, so if I have any fears, it would probably be the fear of not having my priorities straight and dying with regret”.
For many of us, the closest we have to the death and suffering caused by COVID, is watching news reports or reading articles, but healthcare workers, like Staci, are living it. They are holding the hand of the patients whose family is not allowed to be with their loved ones, making those heart wrenching calls to families letting them know that despite exhausting all options, the virus, the villain in all of this, won.
While the rest of the country is anxiously waiting for restrictions to ease up so they might go out to dinner, get their nails done, or get back in the gym, healthcare workers are simply looking forward to the day there is no more COVID unit, no more hands to hold in their last moments knowing they are a replacement for the family who cannot be there, and the day they are finally COVID free. The next time you see someone in scrubs, whether from a hospital or a nursing home, please do not pass blame or judgment… smile, it could be the only light in their day. They might be the person who needs to hold the hand of your loved one, they just might become your personal hero.