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‘I miss walking in the garden’: Halifax nursing home residents ready for COVID-19 vaccine

Click to play video: '2 women talk about how it’s like living through a pandemic in nursing home' 2 women talk about how it’s like living through a pandemic in nursing home
WATCH: With long-term care residents in Nova Scotia preparing for their first shots of the COVID-19 vaccine, Alexa MacLean chats with two women who share a little about the highs and lows of living through a pandemic in a nursing home – Jan 8, 2021

Graciously sharing her thoughts through a glass window on a cold winter’s day, Naomi Black holds a phone to her ear while she explains what’s kept her occupied during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Well, my laptop quit just in time for this to happen but I do have a large iPad that I can use,” she said with a grin.

Like many forced to stay in place amid public safety orders, streaming television shows and cozying up with a good book has become a regular part of her pandemic routine.

READ MORE: Dentists, pharmacists in Nova Scotia ready to aid with COVID-19 vaccine rollout

However, the nursing home resident is quick to point out how much she misses fresh air strolls.

“I miss walking in the garden here but it’s a bad season for that anyway. So, it’s not that bad for me,” she chuckled.

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Black is one of the thousands of long-term care residents across the province preparing to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The provincial strategy aims to have all long-term care facility staff, designated caregivers and residents, inoculated with their first dose of the vaccine by April.

Three Central Zone long-term care facilities — Northwood’s Halifax campus, Shannex’s Parkston facility and Oceanview in Eastern Passage — are slated to start their vaccination clinics before January’s end.

Residents at Northwood will go first, receiving vaccines on Monday.

Residents at Parkstone Enhanced Care in Clayton Park are scheduled to receive their vaccine by the end of January. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

The news is particularly welcomed by Northwood resident, Shirley Wile who recovered from the virus but experienced seeing many of her fellow residents not pull through.

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“It was not fun to lose people and we didn’t really know what was going on,” Wile said with a soft-spoken tone.

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READ MORE: Nova Scotia releases phased plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution

To date, 65 Nova Scotians who tested positive for COVID-19 have died — 53 of them were Northwood residents at the Halifax campus.

Wile remembers all too well what it was like to come down with the virus.

“I was a sick woman because I did not want to crawl out of the bed in the morning and I had absolutely no energy. Then I developed a sore throat, wicked headache and then I got a very productive cough,” she said.

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Black’s voice lowered as she explained the direct impact COVID-19 has had on her and her family.

While she’s been kept as safe as possible inside the walls of Parkstone Enhanced Care facility, her mind often drifts to members of her family who she hasn’t been able to see.

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“My brother, who’s four years younger than me, died from it,” she said.

“He did have some other conditions, he had cancer but COVID sort of cut it off very quickly and I’m not very happy about that,” Black included.

Read more: No serious side-effects from COVID-19 vaccines so far, Health Canada says

Black says her daughter has been staying home — only going out for walks — since last February because she’s trying to protect her husband who is waiting for heart surgery.

Despite those hardships, Black is quick to focus on the positives.

“I read and I have friends here who are also mobile and, I don’t know what the right word is — alert, cognizant. So, it’s not so bad for me, it’s very hard on people who depend on their family coming in,” she said.

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Wile echos Black’s sentiments about being content despite the challenges of not being able to leave the facility.

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This was her first Christmas away from her family in her 88 years.

“I was always at home for Christmas and this time I was at home in Northwood but it was different and it was fine, I didn’t mind it all,” Wile said.

Wile said she was able to connect with all of her family members through virtual visits during the holidays.

Overall, she’s hopeful the vaccine will be a key step in the right direction towards her being fully reunited with them in person. “I love them all, as always, and I think they’re the best family in the world,” Wile said.

Northwood residents at the Halifax campus will receive their COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 11.

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