Returning to Fight COVID-19

Mary Sage, a nurse who had already retired twice, returned to United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia to help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With more than 30 years of service in the nursing field, Mary Sage certainly deserved to retire and relax in her garden. But when the coronavirus began spreading throughout her community, she returned to the bedsides of her friends and neighbors.

“It wasn’t hard. I just did it. They called, and I said, ‘Sure,'” she told reporters at Rochester’s News 8 WROC. 

So, at 72 years of age, she began working on the medical surgery floor at United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia and took care of patients with a range of illnesses, including COVID-19.

Mary Sage with a group of hospital staff

Always a bedside nurse

For almost as long as she can remember, Mary wanted to be a nurse. And that’s what she became – at a time when there were no computers and no lasers to help during surgeries.

“The information age has certainly enhanced nursing, but once you’re a bedside nurse, you’re always a bedside nurse,” she told reporters for The Batavian.

She is getting used to the computer systems, but she sees beyond the screen and beyond a check list of tasks. She focuses on being present with the people she can help.

“I probably would have come back here for nothing because I like doing what I’m doing.”

The ‘real deal’

Years ago, an infection control specialist visited UMMC and explained to the medical staff how to prepare and what to expect should a pandemic occur. It was hard to imagine something like that happening in real life and not on a movie screen or in the pages of a science fiction novel. In fact, it was so surreal that it was almost laughable to imagine.

But Mary isn’t laughing today. It’s the real deal.

“I think if you have respect for your fellow man, you need to wear your mask and you need to attempt to socially distance. It’s not always that easy, let’s be frank,” Mary said to WROC and to other news outlets that shared her inspiring story.

The advantage of age

While battling COVID is new to Mary, reassuring frightened patients is not. She comforted thousands of scared people throughout her long career. Plus, she has faced some fears of her own.

“I am a better nurse today and a better person,” she told The Batavian. “I’ve had to take care of a sick husband. I’ve been a patient myself, and I do believe that makes me a better nurse.”

She knows patients struggle to understand what’s happening, especially since scientists are still learning about the virus. So, she takes the time to explain all that she can.

“…with a lot of reassurance, they get through it.”