Transcription – English – Audrey Vanderhoek

21. Audrey Vanderhoek.mp4: Video automatically transcribed by Sonix

21. Audrey Vanderhoek.mp4: this mp4 video file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Audrey Vanderhoek:
So my name is Audrey Vanderhoek. I'm a registered nurse and a UBC grad with a specialty in geriatric nursing. My life has been significantly impacted not only by COVID, but by the management of the pandemic in all its various forms. I've had COVID. I'm a COVID long hauler, I'm an unvaccinated nurse, and I'm a terminated nurse. At the outset of the pandemic, I was working in a residential convalescent care facility and housed within this five unit facility was a rehabilitation unit for seniors. Lots of comings and goings within that unit, particularly the COVID protocols, were initiated at our facility in a somewhat progressive manner based on the information we had available. And and as it became available, we started with just surgical masks, one per day pre-screening at the doorway, the ten COVID symptom checklist, temperatures taken twice per shift. Eventually, doctors stopped coming in for the well-being of the residents and for their own safety. Families were prohibited from coming in. They were designated to window visits, and the loneliness and isolation rose exponentially in April, very shortly after the initiation of the COVID protocols. That would be April 2020. There was an outbreak in the rehabilitation units, a 25 bed unit, and it spread like wildfire. Within a couple of weeks, the all of the residents had either gone to the hospital, they had gone home or they had died, and the unit was closed. It could not contain it.

Audrey Vanderhoek:
And but they had this brilliant idea that they were going to renovate it and reopen it. And a swarms of of maintenance men and construction workers all of a sudden were allowed entry into our building. And I protested very loudly and said, families are not allowed to visit, but yet you're putting us at risk for this and our residents at risk. So the project was abandoned, but unfortunately COVID was in our building and had moved over to the residential side. And we tested all of us. We tested the staff and all of the residents, and there was about eight of us that were sick. I myself was included in that first batch. So in May of 2020, I was to isolate for two weeks at home I was I was contacted daily by the public health officials. I was thinking, hey, I've got the normal symptoms. Flu, like I'm good, I'm doing okay. But by day eight, things turned to shit and I developed this debilitating anxiety. I developed chest pain, I developed shortness of breath. And when I went to emerge, they did all the blood work, chest X-ray, etc. And because they saw no opacities in the lung, they chalked it up to anxiety and sent me home and it just got progressively worse. I had excruciating headaches. I had burning sinuses, my ears were full. They felt like they were going to explode.

Audrey Vanderhoek:
I had neurological symptoms. I had gastro logical gastro gastro symptoms. I was nauseated. My heart would pound my my heart rate would change levels. I had I had incredible brain cognitive issues. I couldn't get my brain to work. I felt like I had had a stroke. I would lose chunks of memory. I couldn't focus. I couldn't get my brain to work. I'd wander around the house like an ADD person, and I was terrified. And basically I was told that it was likely anxiety or PTSD and that and no follow up was given to me. And I knew very quickly then that I was on my own to find my own way through this recovery. Fortunately for me, doing my research, I discovered that there was a COVID long haul opening up at St Paul's and I had my doctor refer and for the first time somebody said to me, Audrey, it's not in your head. There are thousands like you. You're not alone. And I was able to get some of the help that I needed to recover. Fast forward 16 months later, I was on a gradual return to work and. Within weeks of my return to work two weeks, I was told the mandates were going to become were going to come into effect. We were told that if we did not comply that we would be penalized, but we weren't told what this would look like.

Audrey Vanderhoek:
And I was told not to go after a medical exemption. I wouldn't get it. It was next to impossible. Same with the religious exemption. I was also told that if I didn't, if I chose to retire, take an early retirement as opposed to any of the other alternatives, I'd better do it quick. Or that was off the table as well. I kept trying to nail my my management down to tell me, like, what is this going to look like so I can prepare and plan? And they I wasn't able to have a meeting with her and it was just like, we don't know. We don't know. We don't know. In late September of 2021, we were then sent an email that said, as of October 11th, you're going to be put on an LOA if you refuse to vaccinate i. And then they also told me in the next two weeks, the only way you can work is if you're rapid tested every day and if you test negative, you need to go home. So for two weeks I was tested every day. And then October, October 11th, I was sent home on an on a leave of absence. I had several meetings. My final meeting was at the end of October. And in this meeting I was told I was asked, have you changed your mind? And I said, no. They said, Well, we want you to know that effective immediately you will be you will be terminated.

Audrey Vanderhoek:
We want you to know that you because we are terminating you with cause you will you will not be allowed to collect the AI and you will not get your severance. Now, they said, Does this change your mind? I said, no. So, you know. Even though I knew that this was coming, the the impact on me was so physical. 25 years of dedication, just dismissed in minutes, and I still don't have words for it. I still don't know how to make sense of it. It is so. Well, shameful and inhumane. But despite that all I went, despite the fact that they told me I couldn't get EI. I went right away and applied. And I had a very a lovely young fellow who was very compassionate. He told me to to ask for medical e so I asked for medically I and got nine weeks and then I went to regular I, I got no, I got no action. So I sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, to the MLA, to the Premier of B.C. and within two days I got a response from the guy and they said, Well, why do you think you should get E.I.? And I said, Well, I said, I have acquired immunity, I have been sick. And I quoted Dr. Stephen Pelech and I'm glad I get to see him speak.

Audrey Vanderhoek:
I quoted his research from UBC I. I also quoted the BC COVID Therapeutics Committee policy guidelines for the treatment of COVID, and in it there is a statement that says a COVID positive positive equals to vaccines. And within a week I received 22 weeks of EI, they said, and admitted I had been fired without cause. Within. Within. The Union now had. Has gone silent on us. And we don't know what they're up to. But they said, oh yeah, we're working on your behalf. We just can't tell you about it. But I did discover that they had written some letters to both Premier Horgan, the BC Premier and also to the Labour Minister begging for nurses, for assistance to recruit nurses. And so I wrote Premier Horgan and I also wrote the Labour Minister and I again suggested that they acknowledge natural or acquired immunity and hire back those terminated nurses because nowhere did they mention the the union mentioned hiring us back just to help us recruit new nurses. And of course, I didn't get a response from either Horgan or the Labour Minister, but the impact has been considerable. My whole life is changing. We would have to sell my house, I have to start a new career. I went from a hero to a non citizen to fringe society, to isolated, to ignored, to patronize, to penalised for my choices. And yeah. That's it. That's where I stopped.

Trish Wood:
Okay. Thank you for that. I'm going to I'm going to pass you to the panel with this thought, which is, if it was really about immunity, they would be asking for immunity. Passports and not vaccine passports. Right. Because technically they should be the same thing, but they don't seem to be. No. Oddly panel.

Dr. Susan Natsheh :
Audrey, I want to thank you very much for speaking with us today. It was heartfelt, and I'm really sorry for what you've had to go through. Yeah. I was just I have a few thoughts. I was just wondering, when you go back to your experience in the residential complex, did you see any change in the one on one or personalized care of patients because of the COVID policies or perhaps restrictions on the staffing, etc.?

Audrey Vanderhoek:
Well, again, because I was out on sick leave almost from the very start of the pandemic, I can't speak. I would have watched for a lot of those patterns. I know, however, staff anxiety was through the roof and there was a lot of sickness and so there was chronically short. They were chronically short staffed. And the isolation, because, of course, seniors are already isolated. You add, you take away their family and they deteriorate really, really quickly. And it is heartbreaking to be truthful.

Preston Manning:
Yeah. If ultimately where our hope is that there'll be an independent national investigation into how this whole thing was handled. But if you if you were asked to testify at that hearing and they were to ask you what should have been done differently, not a whole big explanation about what could or should your employer have done differently that might have avoided some of the hardship that you're talking about. What could or should of your provincial government have done differently? What would you respond? And not trying to put you on the spot for a whole, whole treatise, but just what would come to your mind? What would come to your mind first foremost?

Audrey Vanderhoek:
Well, you know, I mean, I don't even know where to begin with that question because it starts already from the media portrayal of the of the of seniors and how they were that they were at the greatest risk. And, you know, honestly, I know I can't answer that question because there's just too many things. But isolating them from family would have been one of the first things I would say. You got you got to eliminate.

Preston Manning:
And your reference to the media is quite significant because you say if the media shapes the context in which this is discussed, then it's very hard to advance any alternative or even for you to get your story out.

Audrey Vanderhoek:
Yes. And and it is and so we were so we our behaviour was dictated by the media and the narrative and CDC policies which we now know we're we're not accurate. So.

Preston Manning:
Well, that's a good start. Start by investigating the media, maybe?

Audrey Vanderhoek:
Yeah. Yeah.

David Ross:
Thank you, Audrey, for your for your story. It's it's a it's a very difficult one. And I just I marvel at how. At. How many people failed you along the way? At least it appears to me at the outset that that probably the majority of people failed you. Was there any who did help you through your journey, or were you pretty much left on your own to figure it out after?

Audrey Vanderhoek:
I was pretty much left on my own to figure it out. I am very, very resilient. And so I fell back on that, those strengths within myself. I had an occupational therapist who was. Unbelievable in her treatment of me and taking on a holistic approach and really giving me the time to heal again at the COVID clinic, post COVID clinic, just by acknowledging me they didn't have much to offer because they were as they were, they were doing research and they did not understand the the COVID long haulers. So they did. They did well. But yes, there were there are lots of gaps there, I have to say for sure.

David Ross:
Yes. And what do you what you bring to mind for me is my heart goes out not just to you, but, you know, the people who have testified here today. To me, there's a common pattern there. It's one of of personal resiliency and strength of character. And and and that's that's exceptionally commendable. But I have this feeling that you are that the people here who have testified today are the tip of a very huge iceberg. I'm not sure what percentage of the people who have suffered all of the injustices that you and the others have suffered, what percentage of them have that personal resiliency and what percentage of them really are still wallowing in despair and hopelessness? So that's that's that really is that really plays on my mind.

Audrey Vanderhoek:
That's why I'm here speaking today. And I've tried to reach out and be available to as many as I can to support in that journey and navigate the system, because I think many are in despair.

David Ross:
Well, I thank you very much. And really, I want to thank you on behalf of everyone else who has not had the ability so far to to have that resiliency. Those who have been have been made to feel alone, those who who have been left alone. And and it seems in some cases or maybe many cases, deliberately and intentionally, like there was you know, it causes me to. To really question what our what our what is the what is the fabric of our moral character. So I know I'm getting into philosophical things here, but I think that that that this this these questions are begged, really.

Audrey Vanderhoek:
They are big. And they're. That's my favorite direction. The the philosophical questions. The spiritual questions.

David Ross:
Well, thank you very much. It's really I believe it's really, really encouraging to many others that you that you and others here have shared your story. So thanks very, very much.

Audrey Vanderhoek:
You're welcome.

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