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The Reflecting Pool: A Teenager Changes His Perspective On COVID-19

Jacob Caudill
Basim Blunt
/
WYSO
Jacob Caudill

Today we have the first of three season finale stories from Dayton Youth Radio. It's about a Kettering teenager who discovered something valuable during his after school job.

My name is Jacob Caudill, and I'm a junior at Fairmont school. I live in Kettering with my mom Michelle, her boyfriend Kyle, and my sister Sadie and Autumn. I'm in an honors choir, I love to sing, I really love music, and I'm also learning how to play guitar right now.

My story is trying to give another perspective on COVID.

Around this time last year, when COVID first started, I was coming off of an extended spring break. I quarantined for nearly a month straight. My attitude on COVID at the time was that I didn't think it was as bad as everyone said it was. I knew it was serious and I followed the protocols, but I didn't really grasp how serious it was at the time because I wasn't personally affected by the virus.

Around November, I decided to get a job at a nursing home because I had a friend who worked there. I joined the dietary department. Aside from doing the dishes and cleaning and all the menial stuff, I took orders in our dining room. We have a decently sized cozy dining room where we seat about 10 residents who come down to eat there regularly.

Before COVID and before I worked there, the dining room served a lot more people. There would be around three residents to a table that would talk and eat together, and there'd be about 30 residents in total.

I also have the task of preparing food trays for the residents. I prepare these trays by first putting a resident's tray card on their food trays. A resident's tray card has their name, room number, their type of diet and all of their likes and dislikes concerning food. So every resident in the nursing home, aside from the ones in the dining room, has a tray card. So, you know all of the names of every resident that is currently living there. When you see a trade card with a name you've never seen before, that's a new resident. Now, on the flip side, sometimes trade cards randomly disappear, which either means they left the nursing home or they unfortunately passed away.

In the dining room, we had this one guy, this one resident, who I'll call Leonard. Leonard who had been at our nursing home since before I started working there, and he was a regular in the dining room. He was a pretty nice guy, but he was kind of difficult because he was a super picky eater so taking his order was always kind of a challenge. Leonard loved grape jelly on any type of bread like toast, a dinner roll. This man put it on garlic bread, it didn't matter to him.

And around two months after I started working there, I noticed that one day Leonard now had a tray card, which means he started eating meals in his room instead of the dining room. Now, this wasn't all that surprising. He was in declining health for a while so this was kind of expected.

One day while preparing trays, I saw that Leonard's tray card had disappeared. Leonard had succumbed to his declining health during the night and he passed away alone. Leonard's story, along with the accounts of other residents in the dining room, described how lonely and isolated everyone was from their family as well as other residents.

It changed how seriously I took COVID.

I've got a lot of people in my family that I haven't been able to see for probably a year and a half. Some people in my family are pretty high risk for COVID, so I don't want to expose them to anything. You know, if I get my vaccine, they get their vaccine, we can all see each other again. If you're not going to get the vaccine for you , do it for someone you love. That's pretty much what I learned from this story.

Jacob Caudill is a student at Kettering Fairmont High School. Special thanks to their teacher Laura Hutchens. Dayton Youth Radio is supported by the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation, the Vectren Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.

This story was created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.