Key workers celebrate being together again
By Emma James
TWO key workers from Wells, Donna and Garry Marke, had an emotional reunion after the coronavirus pandemic kept them apart for more than two months.
The couple, who have been married for eight years, were separated for 70 days when Donna moved into the care home where she works to help look after the residents.
She has been deputy manager at Court House Retirement Home in Cheddar for five years, and moved into the care home on April 12 with some of the other staff.
She said: “I just knew that we had to protect the residents from coronavirus. At the time there was no testing. Court House is a very special place. It’s all about the residents.”
Garry, who works at Tesco in Wells, added: “Donna’s a carer by nature. We had spoken about it for a while and we knew how to be apart because I used to be a long-distance lorry driver.”
Court House, registered for 28 residents, was looking after 23 elderly people during the lockdown. Some of the remaining beds were used by the carers who split into groups and occupied different areas of the care home. Donna was living in the chemist’s storeroom.
She remembers: “Everyone was really emotional on the first day. We’d just left our families. We were 12 carers down and we were working 72 hours a week with no days off. I don’t know how we kept going.
“Luckily, we had PPE from the start. Our manager, Chris Dando, could see things were getting quite bad out there. He was on the ball and he was even making his own visors.”
Back in Wells, Garry, who has worked at Tesco for eight years and is normally to be found behind the meat counter, was recovering from a stroke which occurred in January. This has left him with a loss of vision in one eye.
He said: “I tried to get myself into a routine. Donna and I phoned each other at 8.30pm every evening. After five weeks, I went out to Court House to see her and stood on the other side of the wall. That was hard, the first time, because we couldn’t touch each other.
“I was desperate to get back to work. I really missed interacting with people, but the doctors dealing with me were needed elsewhere so there was no-one to sign me off to say I was fit to go back.
“If it wasn’t for the telly and the X-Box, I would have gone stir crazy. I stuck to the rules and had my own ‘billy-no-mates’ barbecues.”
Donna came home on June 23 to flags and a card from Garry and joined him for a barbecue. Garry said: “When Donna came out it was brilliant. Although she was not impressed that I went back to work the next day.”
Whilst the team of carers at Court House can now spend time with their families, the hard work and long hours continue. Testing is taking place every week and visits from family members remain forbidden following government guidelines. There have not been any cases of coronavirus at Court House to date.