Kim Turk’s 2021 calendar has notations she never anticipated including. “Covid in the office, closed for cleaning.” “Pam’s son tests positive.” “Pam tests positive.” “Pam admitted to hospital.” “Pam put on ventilator.”
Happily, four months later, Kim, assistant vice president commercial lending in our Peoria branch, wrote: “Pam back to work.”
“Pam” is Pam Cain, INB vice president and Peoria branch manager. And like Kim, Pam didn’t expect a life where a pandemic would change so many things.
Pam was exposed to Covid-19 right as vaccines were rolling out in March 2021. Because of her age and her good health, Pam didn’t qualify. And when she was initially sick, she says she didn’t feel all that bad. But over a 24-hour period, things changed. Pam says, “My husband (Dave), who also had Covid, told me I needed to go to the hospital.” A neighbor told her that another neighbor had just died from Covid, and that Pam needed to go to the hospital.
Pam refused because she knew neither Dave nor any of her three sons could be with her . . . and that was scary. But in the end, her twins dropped her off at the OSF emergency room door. The next couple of months were a blur, with Pam saying she doesn’t remember much of anything.
Diagnosed with Covid pneumonia, Pam was almost immediately put on a ventilator. Her husband kept tabs with the hospital staff and Kim, trying to work his way through the medical decisions he was forced to make and keeping the INB team up to date. Kim connected Dave with both Pam’s manager and INB’s HR director to start family leave paperwork and, ultimately, disability documentation.
During her early days in the hospital, the doctors had calls with her family every day. When her husband or sons asked if Pam would make it, the staff wouldn’t answer.
Hospital Stay Continues
Before her admission, Pam let her husband know she wanted him to keep Kim in the loop on her medical situation so she could keep her friends and colleagues at INB in the know. Pam later learned they’d arranged prayer chains in their churches and made sure her husband and boys were fed. She’s confident these efforts made a difference in her recovery.
After about two weeks on the ventilator, Pam’s medical team explained to Dave that they would have to eventually take Pam off the vent. So, he had a choice to make: Do nothing and see what happens or perform a tracheotomy – a procedure that brings its own risks. Dave chose the tracheotomy.
On April 21, 2021, while still on the ventilator, a trach and feeding tube were inserted. Pam began to feel stronger. April 29, she was taken off the ventilator and connected to oxygen through the trach.
After 10 days, the staff put a cap on the trach so Pam could talk. One of her first calls was to Kim and Amy.
The trach and feeding tube were removed May 19, and the hospital staff began to focus on recovery. Because Pam had worrisome liver enzymes, she was in the hospital until May 20 which allowed her to do both physical and occupational therapy at OSF. The therapy included learning to walk, dress herself, and eat. She says she shared the therapy space with primarily stroke patients.
“I really didn’t want to go to a nursing home,” Pam says, which might have happened if it hadn’t been for her tenacity. “I was determined to leave OSF without needing to be on oxygen.” When Pam headed home, she was able to leave without an oxygen tank.
When Pam describes her time with Covid, she chooses the word “lonely.” “It was so lonely,” she repeats. While she did have a room mate for a short while, and she talked to Dave and her sons by phone regularly, the days in a hospital bed were long. She adds that the nursing staff was great. They would come by to visit. They even tried to help her connect with the boys through a hospital tablet on Zoom. And Dave was there when he could be.
Dave did keep Pam away from her phone. He knew there would be all kinds of messages, including texts from her sons, the thought of which cause Pam to tear up.
About this time, INB management decided Pam needed to see first-hand that INB was there for her. HR Director Kelley Himmelberg put out a call for greeting cards from each department. Even President and CEO Sarah Phalen went to her garage to create the just-right, poster-sized message. Pam says she can’t even describe how much she appreciates everyone’s efforts.
Family, Work Stresses
Pam’s family, Dave in particular, carried a heavy load while she was ill. Kim calls her “the glue” of the family, with Pam routinely handling the family paperwork and making day-to-day household decisions. Pam says her family, friends and INB co-workers were there to help Dave, Kim in particular, because she is both a friend and colleague.
Kim took over managing branch operations, ultimately filling in at most every role in the branch as Covid and resignations took a toll. Kim adds that she made decisions based on her then-mantra, WWPD? (What Would Pam Do?) The answer meant filling a lot of shoes, including making a daily courier run. Kim doesn’t hesitate to add: “It wasn’t just me. I had Amy (Knoll, senior teller) and Wes (Thompson, banker). We’re a good team. And staff came from Springfield to help as tellers and serve as a manager to the retail staff. Kelly Raison (VP, retail operations), Dee Pedersen (North Dirksen branch manager) and Andi Whalen (Champaign and Bloomington branch manager) came to help out. Steve Keenan (SVP, Illinois market president) provided help as well. And of course, Kathy Greer, (SVP, retail executive) was always available to Kim.
Pam notes that Kelly was there to help out when she returned to work July 7 . . . a date that surprised most of her INB colleagues. “I needed to come back,” Pam says. “At first, I wanted to be home, then I wanted to be back at work. They made me pass a lot of tests before I could do that. There was speech work that I needed to do. Sometimes I would have trouble knowing what word belongs where. Basically, the test assured I had my head in the right place.” She passed with flying colors, with her doctor calling her “a rock star.”
But even as she exceeded expectations when it came to her recovery, Pam notes one lasting effect: “Covid brain fog.” She says she really has to work on staying sharp, and doesn’t think she’ll ever remember the details of the weeks and months of her recovery. But that’s what Kim’s for, right?
Finally, Pam has this advice to anyone who has not yet opted for a Covid vaccine. “Get your vaccine! I was on the fence before I got sick. Now I’m an advocate for the vaccine. I’ve convinced customers and friends to get their shots.”
Today, Pam can say Covid has definitely made her closer with her family. “I had a lot of time to think,” she says. “Covid changes the way you look at life. Maybe now I’m more easy-going. And I appreciate what I have.”
That includes her job with INB. Pam says that thanks to INB’s medical and disability insurance, her family’s finances weren’t impacted because of her illness. Now they can focus on what they have together.