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One Year Later, Richelle Nicholls shares a unique story of compounding crisis.

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Richelle works for Allegany County and shares her perspective on having a pandemic hit while already in a medical crisis. Despite enduring a ‘double whammy’, she is certainly of the “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’ school:

This time last year was different for me.  Starting on the 9th, I had a series of headaches that were actually on a migraine level.  I have suffered from them for years.  But this was different.  It was daily, and it moved around in my head.  Wasn’t just one spot being targeted.  I left work early a couple of days because I just needed to close my eyes, and it was making me so tired.  I left to go to my doctor as well to seek help.  She gave me my first ever migraine shot to try help with it. It didn’t even phase the pain.  So a couple of days later we tried the route of an antibiotic in case I had a sinus infection.  On the 14th I woke up and had some blister-looking things on the side right of my head, and they itched.  But I also still had the migraine.  I took myself to the JMH Walk-In Clinic.  They took a culture, gave me 2 different antibiotics and said they thought it was Cellulitis.  Personally, I had never seen anyone get it on their face.  I’d heard of it being on limbs. 

This was now happening as everything was breaking in regards to the pandemic.  But I wasn’t paying attention to the news or anything. I was spending a lot of time just laying in bed, or on the couch.  Eyes closed because it hurt to have them open. The blisters had spread over the upper right quadrant of my face. Over to my nose and down to my cheekbone.  As well as up into my hair.  I remember feeling like people that saw me in public probably feared I had the plague or leprosy or something dreadfully contagious.  I felt like I looked like a mess.  In a week’s time, I lost 15 pounds.

At that point, the County had basically “shut down” initially until procedures could be figured out.  Which was fine with me, because I still didn’t feel spectacular.  Focusing mentally was still a challenge.  So I was grateful to be able to work back into my swing of my still fairly new position in the office on top of it all.  The hard part was not having been at work the day we were sent home until things could be figured out how we’d staff the office etc.

I remember feeling almost like I did back when 9-11 happened.  I know this virus wasn’t the same as planes crashing into our buildings.  But the uncertainty of everything is what was most unsettling.  Especially not feeling any better than I was, I wasn’t following the news to try understand better what was happening.  Since then, so much information has come out, procedures have changed and having to adjust to wearing masks, not seeing people etc. 

I have always been one to grow up thinking about the things my elders have seen in their lifetime, and how (up until now) my generation had never seen anything like that.  Granted, we have had wars that have happened.  But none on our own soil, or to the extent of how women during my grandparent’s generation had to join the workforce to help pick up the slack for the number of men that were off fighting wars. 

It’s certainly “been a year,” that’s for sure.  I still don’t think we’ve necessarily seen what my grandparents may have lived through.  That’s not to say that to younger people living now and having to deal with the changes to the academic world and routine isn’t stressful and disturbing.

I have always felt though that through adversity we grow.  It just depends on how you face it and if you have support systems to help you handle it.  I look forward to the day where we can move about without our masks and see each other’s smiling faces again, while we gather in celebrations.  Whether they be joyous or sad occasions.  They are all a part of life that we want to be able to share with loved ones.  I’m not sure if we’ll feel like we are living “normally” again for some time….  I just hope we get there eventually. 

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