October 22, 2020
Sandra Lister Garden Makeover

Every patient deserves dedication 

Frontline nurse Sandra Lister recovers from Covid to enjoy $25,000 garden makeover presented by Landscape Ontario members 

Landscape Ontario received over a thousand stories of friends, neighbours and family members who have helped to improve the lives of those in their community throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, we are excited to announce the 10 amazing frontline heroes who will receive the garden makeovers! Read the incredible stories of dedication, selflessness and compassion at www.landscapeontario.com/hero and stay tuned to Landscape Ontario this fall and into spring 2021 to see the finished garden makeovers!

Meet all 10 frontline heroes
When Sandra Lister was assigned to the Covid-19 unit at Toronto Western Hospital in March 2020, she was nervous, but determined to support the patients and her co-workers.

A nurse on a GIM (general internal medicine) floor for over 25 years, Lister worked on a SARS unit in 2003 which provided some insight into what it takes to combat a new, contagious virus.

“In the spring, there was uncertainty about the PPE we had and whether or not it would be effective,” Lister said. “There was conflicting information, where some people were saying one kind of mask was good enough, while others said we needed another kind. And there was also the question as to whether we had enough supply. I was happy to work on the Covid-19 floor with patients who had the virus, but I wanted to know that I was protected and that I wouldn’t bring the virus home to my family.”

Staying focused on the task at hand

Lister didn’t let the anxiety get to her. Instead, she stayed focused on the job at hand. Sandra Lister

“I felt like I made a commitment as a health care professional and that somebody had to be there to support those patients,” she explained.

Despite being extremely diligent and following safety guidelines, Lister contracted Covid-19 in late April. 

“You usually don’t know where you got it from, because it was out in the community by then, but the likelihood is that I got it at work,” Lister said.

Fortunately, her symptoms were relatively mild, and she was able to get better at home. However, it was a difficult period for her family.

“I was home for just under a month, and I was lucky that I didn’t have it too severely,” Lister said. “But there was a lot of worry that my family might also catch the virus. So I really was secluded during that time.”

Family support helps Lister stay strong

Lister lives with her husband in Pefferlaw, Ont. They have five kids, ranging in age from 13 to 31.

She says support from her family was key in helping her to make it through Covid-19 and return to work at the hospital.
The hardest part of working on the Covid floor, Lister says, is seeing how rapidly the virus can act.

“It’s really difficult to see patients come into the hospital, and they don’t seem very sick at first,” she said. “At the beginning of the illness, they aren’t on oxygen yet, and they are still talking and doing okay. So you can be with a patient one night and think, ‘they’re doing well, they are going to be okay.’ And then you can come back in two days and they can be close to dying. It’s heartbreaking to see.”

Others, of course, do improve and get better. And that’s what gives Lister her strength.

“I love to see people improve and get better,” Lister says. “That change, it gives you hope and inspires you to be the best at what you do.”

Lister says nursing is a special profession that isn’t for everyone. To be a great nurse, you have to have a great deal of empathy and compassion. “You needed to be open minded and non-judgmental and to approach every patient with the same dedication and care as you did on your first day in the job. It’s not always easy, but it’s important.”

A passion for gardening

Outside of work, Lister enjoys spending time with her kids and enjoying her gardens.

Her experience working on the Covid-19 unit, and the determination she showed in returning to work after fighting the virus, as well as her passion for gardening, made Lister a perfect fit for Landscape Ontario’s Frontline Hero Garden Makeover Program. The Association is proud to honour Lister and her family with landscaping services valued at $25,000, with the hope that the improved gardens will provide her with a space to unwind and relax after a hard day at work. 

“We live close to a forest as well as the beach, and I just love watching birds and nature come into our yard,” Lister said. “Gardening really is my number one thing. I am just so grateful to Landscape Ontario for this recognition. I know there are so many frontline workers across the province who have worked so hard during the pandemic, I just can’t express my gratitude enough to be awarded this garden makeover!”