Editor's Note: Life since COVID-19 has changed things for all of us. We’ve experienced hardships, heartaches and challenges, but also new and sometimes unexpected reasons to be thankful. This new Lake Report series will share some of the stories of NOTL residents as we all reflect on our experience of life in a pandemic.
Living through the COVID-19 pandemic can cause frustration even among the most resilient of Niagara-on-the-Lake residents.
Sheila Hirsch-Kalm took it all in stride for the first nine months, from spring lockdown through the summer and into the colour-coded restrictions that followed, making the most of every day.
But, as the second wave grinds on into January, Hirsch-Kalm is frustrated with the lack of information about the process and timing for rolling out the vaccine in Niagara.
At first her take on the pandemic was that “this is a replay with a different twist.”
Hirsch-Kalm lives in St. Davids today, but she was a young nurse in Scotland in the 1950s, caring for patients during polio and tuberculosis epidemics.
Asked about how she’s been coping with the current pandemic, she said, “I’ve been through this before.”
“We had whole wards of people in iron lungs,” she recalls, adding, “We did not have fancy equipment to protect ourselves.”
Right up until Christmastime, Hirsch-Kalm had a pragmatic response to the situation. Some people, she said, become terrified, others say, “Let’s get on with it.” And get on with it, is just what she’s done.
After the first lockdown in the spring, Hirsch-Kalm found joy in her extensive gardens at her home on York Road, and made sure to share the space – safely – with others.
She has been gardening in NOTL for 20 years and says this summer her garden was her saviour.
Known to many in NOTL as a past-president of the NOTL Horticultural Society, and the driving force behind the more than 100,000 daffodil bulbs planted in nine NOTL gardens to support those touched by cancer, Hirsch-Kalm kept up with various other volunteer activities and garden society memberships online.
Hirsch-Kalm admits she misses travelling with her husband since the pandemic started, since “it was a big part of our lives, and suddenly it all had to be cancelled,” though she’s quick to add the pandemic “slowed us up and we’ve had more time to sit together in the garden.”
But as the seasons have slipped from spring to summer to fall and into winter, Hirsch-Kalm is becoming impatient for news of the vaccine and the process to administer it.
“The vaccine was my hope.”
Now 84, Hirsch-Kalm has more reasons than most to be nervous about the pandemic.
“I have no hip on one side and no immunity. I could’ve become terrified of life, but that’s not me. I’ve got cancer as well, but I’ve always got a reason to get up and get on with it.”
That will to carry on is not diminished, but Hirsch-Kalm says, “There’s such uncertainty now, we’re hunkered down again, and we still don’t know how or when the vaccine will be available.”