I graduated from college in May of 2019. After I graduated, I traveled a bit that summer on a big road trip with my boyfriend, Owen, all over the U.S. I came back to the Island and started working at Island Health Care (IHC) that September.
I was then on the Island living with my parents through December 2019, while Owen was getting his master’s degree. We eventually decided we wanted to move to Chicago, so we spent the fall preparing for the move.
In January 2020 we moved to Chicago, and it was a long haul. We had to take a U-Haul, and drove out to Chicago to set up in our apartment. I got a job pretty quickly in the field I absolutely wanted to work in, which was performance improvement at Northwestern Medicine, so I was in one of their hospitals downtown.
It was such an exciting time. We were living in a new city, I was taking the train to work. I got in just under the wire in terms of COVID. I started Feb. 12, and early March was when all of a sudden the pandemic hit.
Owen didn’t get a job. He’s a mechanical engineer, and his interest is renewable energy, so that’s what he was interviewing for. His last interview went so well, and they all but told him they wanted to hire him. The next day they put on a hiring freeze and let go of their human resources staff, so it was just really bad timing.
We were struggling to find out what we were going to do. We didn’t have a lot of money, we had an apartment we had to pay for, so at the end of March 2020 we came back to the Vineyard, and we didn’t expect to stay here that long. We thought maybe a month, because my office was saying, “We think we’ll be back by mid-April or early May.’
We felt more comfortable being outside on the Island. Being in a city it was scary, because so much was unknown then, and we had nowhere to go. So we got here in March and didn’t think we were going to be staying, and it’s a year later and we haven’t left.
The whole time we were in Chicago, I was still consulting for Island Health Care. I love the organization, I love the people I work with, and I love the work. When we got back to the Island, I started helping IHC set up the COVID test site.
Slowly, I got pulled more and more into that, and at a certain point I was working 20 to 30 hours for IHC and my normal 40 hours for Northwestern. It was clear to me I loved the work I was doing on the Island. In August there was an open position for a chief operating officer. I was hired to fill that position, but as an operations manager, and formally stopped working with Northwestern.
Earlier on, Owen was hired to run the IHC TestMV site in May. It was crazy too, because when he was hired for that, they were thinking it was maybe a three-month position — now here we are almost a year later.
We’ve been living with my parents the whole time. It’s been so nice because the four of us get along so well. We’ve been really careful, too. Owen goes to work, but I pretty much work from home. We haven’t seen friends, so it was nice to be with my parents. We’ve played a lot of games like Settlers of Catan, Hearts, and we watch a lot of TV together. Before when I lived at home, I didn’t like to cook. It’s something I’ve gotten really into in the past couple years, and it’s something I can share with my mom. We were just reflecting on how special that is, because if we weren’t living here it wouldn’t be something we got to do.
I’ve always wanted to work in healthcare, it’s what I’ve studied, what all my internships and jobs have been in. Something that became really clear to me after my experience at Northwestern was that while I loved the work, the team, and the organization as a whole, it felt too corporate for me. The whole reason I wanted to work in healthcare was because I want to help people, and I like to be able to feel close to that impact, see the people we’re helping, and listen to them.
I’ve been so grateful to be a small part of the response to COVID. It’s opened my eyes to how many incredible people there are in this community.
I coordinated all the volunteers at the beginning for the test site. It was overwhelming how many people I was corresponding with on a daily basis who wanted to help. People who were from high school, people who were retired, people who had to take a year off college, people who have kids. Everyone was just wanting to help, and I felt like that was so unique to this community, how everyone comes together to do what they can with what they have to help people.
It’s been crazy to see the test site from a tiny concept to such a beautifully run independent operation. At the end of the day, it’s all the teamwork, all the people who came together to make it happen. Especially now, the on-the-ground team of test site coordinators and then the core group of volunteers, many who have been volunteering for eight months, deserve a lot of credit for doing the work. They haven’t closed ever. They’ve been there, rain and snowstorm, making sure people can get tested.
Also the leadership at IHC was working around the clock to make it happen. It was a huge undertaking, and no one was questioning if it was the right thing. Everyone was like, We have this opportunity and this partnership with Martha’s Vineyard Bank, which has been incredibly generous, and Quest Diagnostics.
It was cool to see everything happen. The first we heard from another health center that they were using rubber bands to affix the test kit to the driver’s side mirror, we thought, “Oh, we can do that.” We started writing down the workflows, had all them in place, and over the first month we optimized them.
It’s kind of crazy; Owen and I never thought we would live here for an extended period of time, but we’ve been able to make a really good thing.
I feel so grateful and lucky for the good things we’ve had come to us in such a terrible time: We have a safe place to live, we both have jobs we find really meaningful, we feel really connected to the community here, and we got a puppy. There’s not a day where I’m not just overwhelmed with gratitude, in a time when so many people are losing their loved ones and getting sick themselves.
We adopted our dog, Jojo, through Angels Helping Animals, and she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. A lot of days she is the only reason I go outside. We walk her and my family’s dog. It’s a fun point of connection between my mom and me. We get outside and get fresh air, a little exercise, and I feel that’s made a huge difference with my ability to stay happy.