For nearly two years, Marianna Cooper has worried about bringing her work home with her.
As a nurse in the float pool, Cooper has been working around patients with COVID-19 since the pandemic originally began in the U.S. Already, that would be more than enough to gnaw at anyone, but like countless others in her position, she has had more than just herself to worry about.
From the beginning, Cooper’s three children turned her 12-hour night shifts at Parkridge into 24-hour ones as she was faced with the possibility of bringing home the deadly disease every time she walked through her door.
“It’s always in the back of your mind,” she said. “You worry about doing simple things like giving your child a kiss on the cheek because… what if you’d had an exposure and you didn’t realize it, and now I’ve exposed my child.”
Boxes of medical equipment fill Mandy McAllister’s small, quaintly decorated home in Brainerd. There was no preparation for her mother’s diagnosis of metastatic cancer or for her eventual stay in hospice care.
As the machines, slings, and medicine become more necessary the answers become all the more grim. Ushering a loved one through their final days is a task no one is truly ready for, but through family and communication, the McAllister’s stayed together.
“In a matter of two or three days, she went from being pretty healthy—going to garden club, going to church, hanging out with family—to having conversations about going into hospice care,” says Mandy McAllister.
McAllister, an administrative specialist at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, was the primary caretaker for her mother, Susan Reggin, while in hospice care. She was flooded with guilt, grief, and unfamiliar medical responsibilities all at the same time, so she greatly appreciated the support and validation of her family.
Her son, Jacob Paige, speaks on the family’s close connection that only grew stronger through these hardships.
“We communicated as frequently and as in-depth as normal,” says Jacob. “Knowing that it doesn’t matter what’s going to happen, and it doesn’t matter if the cancer is going to get better or worse, we’re still the same people. If she’s got eight months to live or two weeks to live, we are still on the same level all the way through, and that just creates a smooth transition.”
Although death is never an easy confrontation, the McAllisters have felt eternally grateful for their limited, but cherished time with Susan. Mandy’s mother and family were forced to face mortality in a slowed and intimate state.
“This could be the last time I really hug her. Is this going to be the last time she remembers who we are? Is this the last birthday? Is this the last ‘X’—whatever it is,” Mandy said.
Susan Reggin served as a clergywoman for over 30 years. Her philosopher’s brain and her dedication to others was passed down to her family.
“I adored my mom, so everything about me that’s good, I would attribute to my mom,” says Mandy, “I think she gave me tools and a model for how to work with other people. We all carry her around in our hearts.”
Mandy reminisced on those quiet moments, sitting at her mother’s bedside reading old poems and laughing through fading memories.
She smiled thinking about her niece and mother playing with stuffed animals, forgetting about the future. It’s those moments that stay with family till the end. It’s the seconds of quiet, vital peace in the midst of the storm, that they look back on and wish to relive.
Meet The Storyteller
Mark Drinkard has 3 years of experience in student media. From those experiences, he has gained skills as a videographer and video editor. He has used his knowledge of creative tools such as Adobe Premiere, Photoshop, and Audition to make and produce videos and audio projects. He is also adept in his knowledge of lighting, audio recording, and audio editing. Mark Drinkard currently lives in Chattanooga TN as he attends college. Photography is a passion of his and the rural landscapes offer a great backdrop to find and make photos. His goal is to provide a voice to everyone and use his skills to tell the stories of the voiceless. For questions, collaboration or to hire Mark Drinakard, contact him at markdrinkard2@gmail or (865)407-3317
The world has quickly shifted to this idea of a ” new normal” and is now filled with virtual holidays, masked greetings, and social distancing. What does the “new normal” look like for someone that is considered high-risk? Nolin Cloyd shares her story about how her life has changed, not only due to the arrival of COVID-19, but also her diagnosis of Multiple sclerosis.
How can a man use his disability to inspire others to be a better version of themselves in a world filled with so many obstacles?
Lyndon “Linny” Stamper, a Chattanooga local, has cerebral palsy but that does not stop him from working out every day. Stamper has become a local celebrity at the YMCA for his dedication to fitness. Nearly every member that he comes across greets him warmly as he makes his way to the gym floor. Stamper is a beacon of inspiration for many of the other gym members, as he does not allow anything to get in his way.
Stamper says that he does not feel like he has a disability, “People look at a disability as something that brings them down, but I look at Cerebral Palsy as like God has given me this ability to shine the light on people with disabilities and show what we can do.”
Local gym members now know Stamper as “Mr. No Excuses” because he drives 15 minutes everyday to work out despite the obstacles that stand in his way. He says that he stays motivated by seeing how his actions are impacting others. “When I first started working out, people told me that I inspire them, or I motivated them to be here.”
When COVID-19 hit, Stamper had no source of income, so he started his own clothing brand called Grind Over Disability. His brand quickly became popular when the YMCA reopened and the members saw his new merchandise. Since the start of his operation, he has sold between 200 and 300 shirts. “What can I do to inspire other people, so I came up with this brand, Grind Over Disability. Something that people can wear and look themselves in the mirror and see no excuses on the shirt. Hopefully it pushes people a little harder,” Stamper says.
Stamper has no plans to slow down. He wants to expand his merchandise beyond just shirts. His hoodies and stickers will be available later this year. You can buy his merchandise and support his journey through Instagram @Lyndonmrnoexcusesstamper.