LOOKING BACK ON 2020

Health care worker whose grandmother died from COVID frustrated by Iowans who won't wear masks

'It's about protecting people who can't protect themselves'

Telemetry monitoring technician Jessica Kelley poses for a photo May 6 at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids. Kelley w
Telemetry monitoring technician Jessica Kelley poses for a photo May 6 at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids. Kelley worked on the COVID-19 floor of the hospital. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — For months, Jessica Kelley, 22, of Cedar Rapids, has worn a mask, skipped socializing and even lived in Mercy Medical Center, where she works as a telemetry monitor technician, to reduce the risk of unknowingly spreading COVID-19 to family or friends.

But other people weren’t equally cautious and Kelley’s grandmother, Diane Adaire, of Fort Dodge, contracted the virus and died Dec. 6.

As Kelley’s family mourned the loss of a woman who might not tell you she loved you, but would show it in 100 different ways, Kelley saw messages on social media from people who did not think they should be forced to wear masks.

“The thing I take away the most is we have to stop thinking of ourselves only,” Kelley said. “So many people are getting hurt and dying and sick and all these people want to say, ‘It’s all about me.’ We have to stop being so self-minded.”

As a telemetry monitor technician, Kelley’s job is to watch heart monitors of patients in Mercy’s intensive care unit and alert health care providers if a patient starts to have cardiac distress or irregular heart rhythms.

In May, she was working on a COVID-19 floor, which meant heart monitors had to be sanitized more thoroughly and bagged up for delivery to ICU patients. Mercy has since designated another floor for COVID-19 patients, Kelley said, so her work protocols have changed somewhat.

Kelley’s big hope for 2021 is that most Americans will take the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I know there are a lot of anti-vaxxers and they don’t want to do that,” she said. “But it’s about protecting people who can’t protect themselves. I hope that people listen more.”

Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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