Surviving COVID just start of one family’s long road




Alberta Newspaper Group

Couch’s Corner

Amy Swidecki was a go-getting, non-stop, single mom and involved grandma, who volunteered with Boy Scouts for more than 20 years and loved her job as an X-ray technician at a local urgent care. Then COVID-19 brought life to a halt. The 49-year-old came home from work Nov. 16 not feeling well and went into Adventist Health Bakersfield on Nov. 19. By Christmas Day, she had spent 36 days in the hospital, including five days on a ventilator. Swidecki’s 28-year-old daughter Miranda was hopeful her mother would be discharged to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital any day. But as of last week, Workers’ Compensation had yet to authorize the move, Miranda said. Amy, a mother of two children in their mid-20s and grandmother to Miranda’s 9-year-old son, is lucky to be alive. But like many COVID-19 patients who suffered severe illness — “long-haulers” as they’re called in the medical community — she has a long road to recovery ahead. As of last week, she couldn’t hold a spoon or a phone, and could take just three steps with the help of a walker, daughter Miranda said. She’s also worried about the bills piling up in her absence, Miranda said. “We don’t know for sure what’s going to be covered and what’s not. I know that concerns my mom right now, too,” Miranda said. Miranda started a GoFundMe account to raise money so her mother won’t face additional stress about paying bills when she is able to come home. The reality is, though, it’s more than just Amy’s finances that are impacted by her struggle with the virus. “She helps out everyone in the family,” said Miranda, who is also a single mom and stays at home to care for her son. “When everyone gets low, we all try to help each other.” Amy’s critical role in the family is recognized by those who’ve known her over the years. Most of Amy’s adult life has been a mission to provide for her children and help others, those close to her said. “With her as the matriarch of the family, she’s the strong one. She keeps them all together,” said Cindy Basham, the Boy Scouts Southern Sierra Council commissioner, who met Amy 20 years ago when their children were in the Scouts program together. Amy was a single mom back then, working at Gottschalks and finishing up school to become a medical technician. “She has had to support those kids all by herself. She’s made sure they’ve gotten to do all the Scouting stuff. It’s not a cheap program to be a part of,” Basham said. Amy has gone through the Scouts program with her son, who is now 26, then a friend’s son and now with her grandson, Basham said. Along the way she’s become a devoted volunteer for Cub Scout Pack 33, which is part of troop 712, Basham said. “She never stops. Anything the Scouts needs, she’s there with them,” Basham said. “Any time there’s an event, she’s out there leading them through the cause.” She camps with them. She hikes with them. She’s chaired numerous Scouts events over the years and has gained a reputation as someone who can pull together high-quality programs for the boys, Basham said. Watching Amy endure a life-threatening illness over the past six weeks and the impact on her family has been hard, Basham said. “No family should have to go through this,” she said. Amy was always involved as a dance mom, too, when daughter Miranda was an elite dancer under Marvin Ramey, who now owns Experience Dance on 18th Street in Bakersfield. Ramey said the two have stayed connected ever since, and Amy still remains involved at the studio. “Amy is a special individual. She goes out of her way to help everyone. She puts others before herself,” Ramey said. Even from her hospital bed, Miranda said her mother was querying her about how everyone else was doing and preparations for Christmas. Were the gifts wrapped? What were the plans for dinner? Normally Christmas Day would start with mother and daughter in the kitchen preparing the turkey, Miranda said. Around 1 p.m. the family, including Amy’s mother and brother, her son and daughter and grandson, would gather to open presents and have their Christmas meal together. This year, Miranda said she and her son will likely celebrate alone. The family has decided to keep their distance “for precautionary measures” she said. Asked about her hope for the coming year, Miranda said: “I just want to see her get better.”