Memramcook school children bring Christmas cheer to nursing home, vaccinations bring hope

·3 min read

As the COVID-19 vaccine begins rolling out in New Brunswick this weekend, nursing home staff like Linda Shannon, executive director at the Drew Nursing Home in Sackville, are jumping at the chance to get their shot.

1,950 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Miramichi earlier this week, with doses being administered Saturday.

"I'm absolutely ready for it," said Shannon.

"Hopefully we can move on from there and all our staff and residents will get vaccinated in the not too distant future."

Guy Leblanc/Radio-Canada
Guy Leblanc/Radio-Canada

Shannon received an invitation to be vaccinated last week, and the email was circulated to staff and others at the nursing home are scheduled to go to Miramichi on the weekend to receive a dose.

Is she nervous to be among the first to receive the vaccine?

"I'm not. I'm really not," said Shannon.

She said most of the leadership team at her nursing home sent in their consent forms and have appointments scheduled for this weekend.

While the vaccine won't mean lessened COVID-19 restrictions any time in the immediate future, Shannon says it's a first step toward change.

"It's been a tough nine months, it definitely has been for everybody, for the staff, for the residents, for the families, for us all," said Shannon.

Residents in the nursing home can currently have limited visits with their family, but not to the extent many would like.

Guy Leblanc/Radio-Canada
Guy Leblanc/Radio-Canada

Erma Black lives in the Tantramar Residences, small cottages for people who live independently on the same property as the nursing home.

She breaks down while talking about what Christmas will be like this year.

"It's going to be very different, because my husband is in there, and I'm here", she said, motioning toward the nursing home only about 100 metres away.

"It's really bothering me."

She's allowed to see her husband for about two hours a week.

Guy Leblanc/Radio-Canada
Guy Leblanc/Radio-Canada

"He's getting good care and that's all I can ask for."

The nursing home is doing what it can to stave off loneliness for its residents.

Last Tuesday and Thursday, students from École Abbey-Landry in Memramcook piled into buses that took them to the nursing home. There they paraded around the property, waving, yelling Merry Christmas and ringing bells for the seniors, many of whom watched and waved through windows.

Amanda Leblanc, a Grade 7 student at the school said she was happy to participate, "to make the old people happy and because they can't see their families during Christmas."

Black said: It worked.

"I thought it was wonderful, I really did."

"It was beautiful," she said.

Fellow resident Aline Beal agreed.

Guy Leblanc/Radio-Canada
Guy Leblanc/Radio-Canada

"The children were hollering Merry Christmas, Happy New year, I was waving, I was sending them kisses," she said.

Catherine Wells said watching the students from kindergarten through Grade 8 made her think of her four grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

"I cried," said Wells.

Shannon said the school's efforts to cheer up the residents is appreciated.

But she hopes if they decide to do it again next year, the kids will be able to come inside.

Shannon is scheduled for her booster shot on Jan. 9 in Miramichi.