Editor’s Note: In our COVID Diary series, the spotlight is on ordinary folks who share first-person accounts of their fight with the virus and how they’ve helped others in need. In the fifth story of the “Guardians in Harm’s Way” series, China Daily puts its lens on the city’s hardest-hit elderly care homes. Lui Pak-yuen, 63, shared with China Daily reporter Shadow Li his own struggle and his 89-year-old mother’s COVID-19 fight at a local private residential-care home for the elderly.
My 89-year-old mother may be one of the few who didn’t have a clue about what was going on outside Prosperous Garden, a private nursing home in Tseung Kwan O. Of course, the hearing-impaired knew something had been going on, with caregivers and nurses around her wearing heavy protective gear all the time.
She would also constantly ask people around her why she couldn’t go out, but the nurses would simply tell her that there were germs outside. She seemed to have been satisfied by the answer and would leave them to their work.
My wheelchair-using mother was confirmed infected with COVID-19 on March 1. Luckily, she was asymptomatic and was quarantined at the nursing home, which I think was a blessing since she was in the trusted hands of familiar faces who provided good care.
As a firm believer in traditional Chinese medicine, she used them when she was confirmed infected. Save from being unable to watch her favorite soap opera, she seemed to understand and adapt quite well to the fact that she needed to take traditional Chinese medicine regularly. She would wheel herself by the window, and watching the scenery outside seemed to make up for the soap opera.
Unlike many of the older adults in residential care, she didn’t lose her appetite. The nurse told me once that she even asked for one more bowl of sesame paste, a Cantonese specialty, during afternoon tea.
On March 17, it was a relief to hear that she tested negative, when at the same time, I was fighting my own COVID-19 battle. On March 13, I also tested positive for the pathogen but I had one vaccine shot just in time before the virus struck.
My mother suffers from hypertension, hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia. I had to put her in the residential-care home when she broke her leg in August. She has hardly been able to walk since then.
Before the pandemic, I would visit her at least once a week. Sometimes, I would bring her homemade soup and her favorite rice noodle rolls without fillings.
With the pandemic raging, I could talk to her only through video calls, but I try not to focus on the outbreak since everybody is talking about it these days.
I ask how she has been and see whether she is down or whether she can recognize me. The conversation is like what she and I had decades ago, only that we have switched roles. It used to be her who was keen to know about my life.
Though the pandemic is still raging, the situation has improved compared with what happened during SARS in 2003, when the city descended into panic. There were no daily press briefings to inform the public about what was going on. There were also not as many relief measures taken by the government for residents as we see today, not to mention the thousands of volunteers helping distribute anti-pandemic supplies to those in need.
The influx of support from the central government also boosted my confidence in beating the virus.
An enormous grin spread across my mother’s face when I told her that when the pandemic subsides, I will take her to yum cha, her favorite outing, and we will order her favorite dim sum with other family members sitting in a circle by the table. A visit to parks is also on our post-pandemic must-do list.
In time, we can beat it, if we stay together and strong. So let’s leave the rest to time.