I was a home health care nurse for seven years, and I never even had health insurance, let alone paid sick days. I was working in Thornton Colorado in 2011, for a patient who is quadriplegic. He needed complete care by me, everything from lifting him to washing him up and giving medications. I was also attending school at the time when I got food poisoning which subsequently made me sick with pneumonia because I was so sick I vomited into my lungs. I couldn’t breathe, and I had temperature of 104 degrees. The only health care I had access to was what I had through school, so I went to the school health services building, got my diagnosis, and both myself and the school health office sent it to my work.
I did not have the strength to get myself out of bed, let alone lift a 170 lb man, so I called out for three days. This was already a very hard decision for me to make because three days is my entire work week; as many home health care nurses take care of our patients for days at a time working 12 hours each day. I called in on Monday because I was still not strong enough to lift my patient, and I was told my by case manager to “not bother coming in again”. Due to the lack of paid sick days, I lost my job, I faced an eviction, and I was unable to care for my two dogs, who are my family. Once I was no longer on this patient’s case, he ended up in a nursing home, which diminished his quality of life, and my own.