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Jan 29, 2021

CAREGiver of the Month - January 2021

Written By: Brian Lahm for Home Instead of Philadelphia
Mercedes Dawson CGOTM January 2021

Mercedes Caught COVID-19 From Client But Stayed With Her Until She Passed

CAREGiver of the Month Mercedes Dawson was stunned in late November when she was told her hospice client had tested positive for COVID-19. Mercedes was given the opportunity to leave the client after Mercedes was told the news. “I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ I felt it was God’s will that I stayed. I did not feel stressed or doomed or anything like that. I felt God’s peace. His hand as I stayed with her,” Mercedes said. “The strange thing was, I was a fill-in CAREGiver.”

More bad news followed. Mercedes went for a COVID-19 test and learned she also had tested positive – presumably catching the virus from her client. “I was surprised. I thought I had caught a cold, but it turned out to be mild COVID-19 symptoms with a cough. It never did reach full-blown symptoms. I continued to serve the client until she passed away,” Mercedes said. “Then the question for me was, ‘If another client has COVID-19, will you go?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ ”

The client’s journey went this way: The client fell out of bed at her assisted living community last fall and was taken to a hospital. From there, she was moved to a rehabilitation facility before returning to her assisted living community. She had been back two weeks before she tested positive for COVID-19. Mercedes said: “They think she may have gotten COVID-19 in rehabilitation. At assisted living, she was in the memory unit with late-stage Alzheimer’s. She was in hospice, but she was fighting to stay alive.”

Mercedes credited her faith and her own special “Jamaican elixir” for keeping her from suffering more severe COVID-19 symptoms. “I am still drinking my home remedy. My doctor’s nurse said I should share my elixir recipe with her doctor’s office. Over the years, I’ve always made my own Jamaican home-remedy concoction to help keep me from catching viruses, especially in the winters. I mix honey, ginger, cayenne, a lot of pure orange juice, vitamin D and a few other things. I also used my own steam treatment. The virus doesn’t like heat.”

Mercedes added: “My doctor’s nurse said to just keep doing what I do to recover. She did not write any prescriptions because the symptoms were mild. She told me not to be concerned if I tested positive again long after I recovered. Virus cells could remain in the body for three months. Usually they say you are in the clear after 21 days if there are no more symptoms. I should have been noncontagious after 14 days. I rested for a month.”

Sadly, Mercedes’ client passed away, but not without a battle. “She was a feisty client in her 80s.

She was a strong lady. I saw resistance in her. I thought, ‘What will happen to the lady?’ Nobody was with her for certain hours of the day. I am sure she was scared when she was alone. And no one was there when I wasn’t with her. I also had to advocate strongly for her because she was in so much constant pain, and they wanted to keep giving her Tylenol, which had no effect. I never spoke with her family face to face, but I told her son over the phone about her pain so they would be spurred to treat her with something stronger, and he demanded it.”

Mercedes was not with the client when she passed away. “When she died, I said, ‘Thank God she is no longer suffering.’ The workers told me she died in peace. I look at the situation as she could be my grandmother,” said Mercedes, who was honored as CAREGiver of the Month for the second time in her Home Instead® career. HR Manager Charlea Lyn Grieco announced the award for the award-winning Philadelphia franchise owned by Steve Levin. Mercedes also was honored in April 2016.

Mercedes continues to wear a mask, social-distance and take other precautionary measures. “I don’t think people should put themselves in position to spread COVID-19 or be infected by it. I have a pacemaker, and I don’t know if COVID-19 will affect my heart if I end up getting it again. But I am not frightened,” Mercedes said.

“I work a lot. I am always on the go. There’s a reason why God put me on Earth. Even when I am not working, I am helping others. Tears come to my eyes when I see the homeless lying on the street. At one time, I was homeless. My credo is: ‘God, whatever you have for me, you take charge.’ I have never thought about not working or retiring. I want to keep going.”

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