Ashley Jardine, wearing her student nursing uniform, is pictured in May 2020 while finishing her studies at Central Maine Community College in Auburn. Jardine is working with COVID-19 patients at Maine Medical Center in Portland. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

POLAND — In self quarantine more than an hour away from her family, Ashley Jardine spent Christmas at her home in Poland on a video chat watching her family in Berwick open presents.

“I got to see my dad smile and laugh, hear his voice, wishing me a Merry Christmas,” Jardine said. “What more could I ask for.”

Her father, Peter, was one of Maine’s early victims of COVID-19. He spent three weeks at Maine Medical Center, including 12 days in a medically induced coma in March. He eventually recovered, but is still dealing with the aftereffects.

The pandemic struck just as Ashley was in the final semester of her nursing studies at Central Maine Community Center. She struggled to complete her degree while her father was sick, and nearly quit school.

Now working as a nurse at Maine Med, she has discovered that nursing during a pandemic is not what she expected. As the number of cases surge, beds are increasingly difficult to find, she said.

“It’s a lot more stressful and overwhelming,” Ashley said. “Even the experienced nurses have felt stressed and overwhelmed because this is uncharted territory for them, too. We’re trying to support each other and help each other navigate our way through this madness and hope that the public will hear our pleas to follow safety guidelines.”

While the rest of her family is living under the same roof in their own pod, Ashley has self quarantined in Poland with her fiancé, Jeremy, the past several months because she works with COVID patients. While the ones she works with are more stable and do not require ventilation, the danger of contracting the virus remains high.

Ashley said both she and her father are “petrified” she could pass the disease to him, which his doctors say could be fatal due to his weakened immune system from his earlier bout.

“It’s scary,” she said. “I’m afraid of getting it. I’ve been segregated from my family, which has been really hard, especially during the holiday season. Its’s really depressing, but I’m just trying to protect my family by staying away from them.”

Ashley said she received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine Dec. 24 and experienced no side effects except slight soreness near the injection site. Receiving the vaccine has provided her with some comfort.

“I’m ready for this to be over,” Ashley said. “I’m ready for some form of normalcy in my life again. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss just being able to go out and do little things like go pick out throw pillows at the department store. Silly little things.

“I’m just trying to be grounded and grateful for my health and for the fact I haven’t gotten sick,” she added. “My family is in a good spot right now and they’re still here on Earth. I’m able to call them up and talk to them, so I’m counting my blessings.”

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