“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art” 

-Eleanor Roosevelt

Dancing with Appreciation: My Tennessee Waltz with Covid 19


By Rose Owens

I’ve been invited to a dance class three times by my friend, Jennifer. Each time I’ve gotten dressed then talked myself out of going.  

I am what they call a Covid 19 “Long Hauler”. Two months ago I lost my hair, and I still can’t walk up a flight of stairs without gasping for air. How can I possibly participate in a dance class?

But today I’m feeling cheeky. I decide to go and watch the fun. I even forego wearing one of my wigs to show off my short-short military style haircut. Ha!

The class is country/western line dancing. I used to love dancing. I was pretty good too. As I observe the instructor’s style of teaching I think maybe I can do this. I could always dance to one song and sit out the next.

I’m a retired educator. I lived in California for 30 years, but I moved back to my home town, Paris, TN, to care for my mom and dad. I found that I liked caregiving, so after they passed away, caregiving became my profession. I enjoyed it and was proud of my work.

It was at one of these jobs that I got Covid 19.

In November 2020, my 95-year-old client contracted Covid and tests showed she’d infected all three of us caregivers. We all went home to quarantine for 14 days. 

I really didn’t think I had any symptoms, but after three days at home I couldn’t walk into the kitchen without falling down. I called my friends and asked if they would bring me some water. They took one look at me and said, “We’re getting you to the emergency room.”

I was really sick. The only thing I remember from that day though is a nurse at Henry County General Hospital telling me I had to stay there because if I went home I would die in two days. The rest is blank.

I woke up in an ICU room with nurses, doctors, and a lot of medical equipment around my bed. I had never been in a hospital before except to get my tonsils out at age five. I was hooked up to a clear bag of insulin and the nurses put a ventilator over my mouth and nose. I saw an x-ray that showed my left lung cloudy and the right lung half cloudy. I wasn’t sure what that meant. Later I found out that I had double pneumonia and Covid 19.

The doctors asked me questions: what’s your name? date of birth? do you know where you are? I got most of them correct. But I was surprised to learn that I wasn’t at Henry County General any more. I’d been moved to the ICU in Nashville at TriStar-Centennial Hospital. I later found out I’d gotten the only available bed within the top three hospitals in Nashville. Lucky me.

How did I get there and how many days had I been out? I’m still not sure. But I do know that I was put in a medical comma at Henry County General Hospital before being transferred to Centennial.

There I was in the ICU, on a ventilator, unaware of how serious my condition was. I honestly didn’t know how near I came to dying. What I did know was that I deeply appreciated every person who was caring for me in that hospital and I wanted them to know it. That became my mission.

I have studied appreciation and how powerfully it can affect not only individuals but companies and teams. I’d read that giving appreciation can improve the giver’s heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels; receiving appreciation can impact self-acceptance, confidence, morale, and productivity.

Focusing on appreciation gave me purpose as I lay there fighting to stay alive and beat Covid 19. I wanted the doctors, nurses, and staff, who were working so hard to keep me alive, to know how much I valued them. I was going to leave these people feeling great about themselves and the care they were providing.

Lying in that hospital bed, appreciation was the one thing I has an abundance of. I believe that appreciation is the closest vibration to love, and I can give it endlessly

I had my whole being focused on getting well and appreciating the staff. I imagined each new IV bag and each new medication making me better as I drifted off to sleep. And I made sure I thanked everyone for everything, including the custodian who tidied my room.

I also found myself talking to the nurses and staff about their families and pets. I’d ask, “What is your favorite thing about your kids? Your pets?”  Their answers would make us both smile.

I don’t know if appreciation saved my life, but I like to think that it did. And I am certain that it elevated the quality of my experience of both myself and others.

By the grace of God I did make it through. I got out of ICU and into a regular room to be observed. Soon I learned I was going home to Paris for rehab.

When I got to Paris AHC I was in tears, so happy to be recovering. I spent three weeks learning to walk again. It was hard work. And I appreciated the rehab staff every agonizing step of the way.

I left rehab on December 31, 2020. I was tearful and excited to be going home and seeing my family. I signed up for home health care. Visiting physical therapists and nurses worked with me for two months, January and February 2021. I did everything they asked and more. They never left my home without knowing how grateful I was for their help. 

I’d almost died, but I wanted to get back to my normal life. I wanted to feel appreciation for my entire life, family, friends, medical professionals, and everyone on my journey back to health.

So today I’m sitting here appreciating the dance class and watching my friend Jennifer enjoy herself. I discover that I too am ready to dance, even if I just move in my chair.

After all, I have something to dance about.

 

Rose OwenRose Owens is a retired corporate trainer, public speaker, and business coach. She relocated from Los Angeles to Nashville and then to Paris, TN, to be closer to family. She currently provides home health care for elders in her community.

 

Written by : Rose Owens


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