October 23, 2020
Determined to provide care
Landscape Ontario awards $5,000 garden makeover to St. Mary's ER nurse Jessica Graff
Landscape Ontario received over a thousand stories of friends, neighbours and family members who have helped to improve the lives of those in their community throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, we are excited to announce the 10 amazing frontline heroes who will receive the garden makeovers! Read the incredible stories of dedication, selflessness and compassion at www.landscapeontario.com/hero and stay tuned to Landscape Ontario this fall and into spring 2021 to see the finished garden makeovers!
Meet all 10 frontline heroes
After 15 years as a nurse in the emergency department at St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener, Ont., Jessica Graff thought she had seen it all.
Then, the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
“This year has been a real learning experience for all of us,” says Graff. “In the beginning, it sort of felt like we were flying by the seats of our pants. It was scary because masks and supplies were tight. We had to conserve PPE as much as we could because we didn’t know if supplies were going to last.”
But there was never a doubt in Graff’s mind: She was determined to do her job and to support patients, as well as her colleagues.
“I knew what I had to do,” says Graff. “I knew I could do what I needed to, to stay safe and to be there for everyone.”
In the spring, Graff says she was blown away by the support the community showed health care professionals.
“Our morale was really high,” she said. “Local businesses were donating food, we were eating like kings! People were literally calling, asking what they could do to support us. We felt really valued.”
But inside the hospital, there were very difficult times.
“It was really hard to see how fast some Covid-19 patients deteriorated,” says Graff.
Sadly, Graff’s aunt and uncle became Covid-19 patients at the hospital.
“My aunt and uncle were in a retirement home where there was an outbreak,” says Graff. “They came to St. Mary's, and they were actually in a room together, and because I was working in the hospital, I was the only family member able to see them. But unfortunately, they both passed away.”
While the loss was painful, Graff says she was glad they were able to be together.
In most cases, Graff explains, family members weren’t able to be with loved ones hospitalized with the virus.
“That was the worst part,” says Graff. “Turning people away at the door, telling them, ‘we’ll call you.’ It was heartbreaking.”
Now, as Ontario deals with the second wave, Graff says she hopes people understand the seriousness of the virus, and follow public health guidelines to prevent its spread.
“I feel like over the summer, people sort of went back to normal,” she said. “I hope people understand how important it is to do their part.”
Graff lives with her partner and his two kids in Kitchener. She went back to school to become a nurse in her twenties, and says it was a life-changing decision.
“Going back to school to become a nurse was the best decision I ever made,” says Graff. “I try to make a difference with people. Sometimes, coming into the ER is a really scary experience for people, but we really try to make a connection and help in any way we can.”
This year, Graff and her partner installed a hot tub in the backyard, and she says the yard is “a bit of a mess.”
She can’t wait for Landscape Ontario professionals to help them get the property looking its best.