COVID, a year later: 3 strangers’ stories

By Brianna Duncan
Staff Writer

TUSCALOOSA — Jamie Ward is a mom of a 9-month-old baby who had to face COVID restrictions head-on through her pregnancy.

Ward thought she would never be able to become pregnant. So, on top of a high-risk pregnancy and a miscarriage false alarm, COVID restrictions made her life hard.

She said the last few months of her pregnancy were absolutely horrendous. Her husband could not go to her with anything because doctors forbid him from being with her during appointments. He had not been able to go to any doctor’s appointments for their child. 

“I could literally go into labor driving down the interstate and my husband would not be there,” she said. “When it came time to give birth, my husband was the only person allowed. We were not able to have anyone visit us and my husband could not leave to get food.” 

The first reported cases of COVID-19 in Tuscaloosa were on March 13, 2020. A little over a year later, everyone’s daily reality has shifted. Since our first lockdown in March, the public has persevered political division, economic challenges, and a global health crisis. We are now looking to a future with vaccines and hopefully one day an end to COVID-19.

On March 25, 2020, the US shut down in an attempt to flatten the curve. Ward was laid off her job, pregnant, and fearing her and her baby’s life. 

The entire country has had to learn to overcome adversity and challenges in so many ways within the past year. The United States lost 538,000 lives to COVID — 538,000 wives, husbands, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles. 

After Jayce was born, he suffered from jaundice, adding to Ward’s anxiety-ridden pregnancy. With a sewn-up body, swollen feet, and an exhausted soul, Jamie was the only guest allowed to sit with her newborn while he was treated. Months later, Ward and her baby Jayce are safe at home.

On May 28, the U.S. death toll surpassed 100,000. Fear was forming in the public, and while staying home was safe, it hurt businesses and the economy.

Payton Ingram is a licensed esthetician in Montgomery, Alabama. As an esthetician, she is responsible for waxing, facials, derma planing, and makeup application. Obviously, these services are not CDC compliant.

“I hated how much division COVID has caused, it has caused social, political, and economic division,” said Ingram. “If I am doing any below-the-neck waxing, I need people to wear masks, and they refuse alot.” 

Ingram talked about her struggles with her business. 

“Obviously I am in people’s faces always so it is hard to follow guidelines.” 

On August 17, 2020, COVID is considered the third leading cause of death in the U.S. COVID patients were stuffed in hospitals, people even laid sick in hallways, health professionals were shocked and overwhelmed. 

Ashley Wiggins worked as a tech in the ICU in January of 2020 and is now a nurse in the ICU. A year ago she and her co-workers never thought COVID would get to this point.

 “We remember the news saying to go into lockdown, and we did not know what to expect… Our first COVID case came in February and we didn’t believe it…we had a meeting when his results came back that he was our first and we were speechless.”

Wiggins told stories of how they were petrified once they were hit with reality. They could not visit family, were forced to quarantine, and had to ration ventilators to suffering patients at different health degrees. 

“At one point all 24 of our COVID patients were on ventilators, we were so stretched thin as nurses left to other states…it was real when our unit was full and we were out of ventilators… and 5 or 6 people a day were dying.” 

Wiggins said it was emotionally tolling and draining. She had never seen death like this in her life. She explained the virus does not discriminate between a healthy person or a sick person.

“It was heavy at first, person after person was dying. At the beginning of this, we could only call family members if the person was actively dying…you’re holding their hand trying to act like their family member.”

Throughout the devastation and struggle, Wiggins has gone through as one of the frontline workers, she has hope for the future, but we still have a long way to go. 

On November 16, Moderna’s vaccine results were announced, and on November 18, Pfizer’s vaccine was found to be 95% effective. One could argue there is a light at the end of the tunnel because there is a vaccine now. As a nurse, Wiggins talked about skeptics. 

“Don’t assume, do your own research, not Facebook research, do actual peer-reviewed sources, talk to nurses and doctors. Especially if you’re pregnant or have co-morbidity… it’s a hot topic but we have to move forward with this.”

As we head toward the future, Wiggins wants to share some sentiments with the public. “Be kind. If you’re tired of wearing a mask talk to someone who lives in it. People don’t know we are still battling this. We need to listen, this ‘I’m right’ mentality is tearing us apart, we need to love each other again.” 

To learn more about vaccine options, visit the Alabama Department of Health website, here.