Surviving Coronavirus: A Home Health Care Aide’s Story

By MIKE LEE

Evelyn Grant, a home health care aide with 31 years experience and a member of Local 389, faced a crisis that too many New Yorkers have endured since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the city hard beginning in late February.

Home health care aides provide all necessary services for clients unable to perform many basic household chores. Hardworking, dedicated employees, many with decades of experience, give in-home care for people that includes cooking, cleaning, shopping, keeping a watchful eye, and caring for those who need it the most. Many work several days a week in a client’s home, providing 24-hour care.

“I go in Sunday morning at 9, and I get off Wednesday at 9,” said Grant, whose client is bedridden. “Washing, cooking, preparing meals. The sort of work we do. I also help her husband because he’s there. While not part of the agency agreement, but as an aide and a human being, we try to do the right thing.”

In Grant’s case, her commitment for care and the due diligence came with unintended risk.

At work, she became exposed to the deadly coronavirus and within days was in the hospital. It began while she was taking care of a client on the evening of March 29 when her client’s husband had a fall.

“Her husband is in the house. In the middle of the night, he fell in the tub. While I’m not there to take care of him, I helped him get out. They told me to put him on the ground with pillows under him to be comfortable. Then EMS arrived. They checked him out, but did not take him,” she said.

For the next several days, the clients’ husband stayed mostly in bed, but on the following Wednesday he fell again. Emergency services were called, and he was taken to the hospital.

Afterward, her shift over, Grant returned home.

“On Friday night I began to feel a little weak. In the middle of the night, my mouth went dry. I couldn’t swallow,” Grant said. “I drank water all night and through the morning. I began to feel pain in my left hand and also in my chest. The pain was going into the arm. That’s when I get scared and called 911.”

At around 3 a.m., first responders came and took Grant to Brookdale University Hospital in Brooklyn.

Once there, workers tended to her immediately. “I told them what was happening. My whole body was in pain. I couldn’t swallow. They gave me Tylenol, antibiotics, and took an x-ray,” she said. “Afterward, I was told I had the virus.”

After being admitted, Grant was prescribed antibiotics, vitamin C, Hydroxychloroquine, and Tylenol. 

She was in the hospital for three days in a semi-private room in a recently-built wing of the hospital. She praised the staff for their quick response and care. “Although it was busy and packed to the streets, I was taken care of right away,” Grant said.

“I was in pain. Then I came to the realization that it is what it is, but I didn’t feel like I really had the virus because I didn’t really have the coughing and shortness of breath. Just a little bit winded at first … I was shocked.” 

While there, Grant helped the other patient in her room get in contact with her husband. In the meantime, her condition steadily improved until she was released on April 7.

“I’m feeling great for having been in the hospital, positive for COVID-19, but I came home and I’m okay. I’m cooking and moving around. I wanted to go back to work, but they said I have to stay quarantined for 14 days,” Grant said. “I’ve been home since April 7. I’m home waiting for the 14-day quarantine to go follow up with my doctor.”

She does have help. Her landlord, who had helped the EMTs get into her home, is also self-quarantined, and they check on each other regularly.

Her son brought groceries, and she has everything she needs while waiting for the doctor’s appointment and getting the clearance to return to work. 

“I need to go back to work. My client wants me to come back,” she said.

Grant is concerned for her client because her husband has since died of COVID-19 and is waiting for Grant to return to work. Grant, on the other hand, is waiting for her doctor’s clearance.

Despite the long wait in isolation, Grant feels lucky. “As a home health aide, I was in contact with COVID-19. My body must have been in good shape. I am one of the blessed few who came through at my age. It depends on how well you take care of yourself and preconditions,” said Grant, who has high blood pressure. “I feel I have to give God thanks.”

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