Giving back in the midst of crisis: A BC nurse’s COVID-19 journey

Amy is a Registered Nurse at St. Paul's hospital in Vancouver, BC. After being hospitalized for COVID-19, she started asking friends and family to tie ribbons around the tree in her front yard to keep her spirits up, and to give back to the people that will be affected by this crisis both in Canada and around the world. What followed was an outpouring of support from loved ones, neighbours and complete strangers to create the “Giving Tree.”

I began experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 on March 23, 2020 (a day off) and tested positive shortly thereafter. Fortunately, I had been self-isolating in the days leading up to March 23rd, so I didn’t expose anyone else to the virus. This was such a blessing, because as a nurse I’m especially worried about my patients. On April 2nd, 2020 my symptoms worsened and I was admitted to hospital for a few days. Thankfully, I am home now and slowly making gains each day. I still fatigue easily, so simple tasks such as brushing my teeth, going up a set of stairs and showering wear me out for hours.

As I have been in isolation for some time now I have had plenty of time to reflect on my experience and life in general.

Giving back in the midst of crisis: A BC nurse's COVID-19 journey

Being a patient has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I am immensely grateful to the first responders, nurses and doctors that cared for me. I am also grateful to those helping to keep society running smoothly: grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, truck drivers, pharmacists, mail delivery personnel. The list could include many more I am sure!

With all this time on my hands, I had an idea. Initially, I asked friends and family to come tie a ribbon on the tree in my front yard as a way of keeping my spirits up while I battle COVID-19. This would also allow me to see them from a safe social distance. However, after a friend raised a good point regarding social distancing, I thought it would be best to have people tie a ribbon on a tree near their home and send me their photos.

Many of the ribbons tied on the tree are from neighbours and people that live in the area whom I've never met. Some of the ribbons are from complete strangers who read the sign and came back to tie ribbons. To me this really highlights the importance of building community. I have received ribbon pictures from local family, friends, neighbours and random strangers; even people as far away as Australia, Germany, UK and the US have sent pictures in.

Initially, I vowed to make a donation for every ribbon tied. That was before the "Giving Tree" concept exploded. I have lost track of how many ribbons have been tied and photos I have received, but I decided to donate a total of $6400 to three charities: the Burnaby Hospital Foundation, Doctors without Borders, and CARE Canada.

I chose to include CARE Canada in my donation because after being diagnosed with COVID-19, I was fortunate to receive immediate medical attention and excellent quality of care. I feel incredibly grateful to be living in such a great country! I thought about the people that aren’t as fortunate, the vulnerable populations around the world trying to navigate the system and advocate for themselves. I thought about people living in countries where healthcare is difficult to access for various reasons and/or healthcare infrastructures are fragile to begin with.

[12:06 PM] Shaw, Marija that's a good point - I really like Giving back in the midst of crisis: A BC nurse's COVID-19 journey (1 liked)

Because I am sick and cannot contribute by being on the front line this is my way of giving back. I needed something to lift my spirits and this adventure has done that in ways I never imagined.

I made the donation to CARE Canada as a tribute to my paternal grandparents. My grandfather was a very kind and loving man. If anyone was sick he would make sure he visited them and would bring fresh grapes. That was his signature. My paternal grandmother was a tiny but fierce woman. She had the most incredibly generous heart and would give you the shirt off her back in a heartbeat. My grandparents also believed in equality and giving back. Growing up, they always made sure that we girls had all the same if not more opportunities than our brothers. They would regularly send money home to their village in Punjab to support improvements in farming, infrastructure, education and sports. If they heard someone was struggling they would try to support them the best way they knew how or were capable of.

I am no longer asking people to tie ribbons to the “Giving Tree”, but instead I hope that everyone can find their own way of giving back during this crisis.

Thank you so much Amy, for your compassion and commitment to women and girls that are being affected by COVID-19 in developing countries around the world. You inspire us with hope, and remind us that we all have the power to make even the smallest moments count and be a light in the darkness for someone else.

Despite all of her challenges, Amy chose to create something positive and beautiful and share that joy with others. We hope you’ll follow in Amy’s footsteps and direct your energy to giving back this Giving Tuesday. Please make your gift today so that we can provide women, girls and their families with the necessities they need to protect themselves from COVID-19.