The pandemic: One crisis, countless journeys

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The pandemic hit Indiana one year ago, packing an emotional and financial wallop. Read the stories of 11 Hoosiers to see how they have navigated the choppy waters in business, in life and in loss.

A quiet loss

Julie Cranfill’s father, Don Iliff, lived with her after he developed dementia. Eventually, his condition worsened and he moved to a nursing home, where he contracted COVID and died on March 28. He was 79. (IBJ photo/Lesley Weidenbener)

Julie Cranfill never understood the need for funerals before her father died of COVID-19. Now, she gets it.

Her father, Don Iliff, died last March, early in the pandemic and shortly after he switched nursing homes.

At the time, group gatherings for funerals, weddings or other events weren’t allowed. And Cranfill felt there was no way to publicly remember her dad, to tell the world what a wonderful father he was.

He had been amazing, said Cranfill, an artist who lives in Fishers. She was just 10 months old when her parents divorced, but her dad—who owned dry cleaners in Avon and Brownsburg—remained a constant part of her life, driving an hour every other weekend to pick her up and then back to drop her off.


Getting a grip on the anxiety

Kelly Tingle and her 6-year-old daughter, Elena (IBJ photo/Lesley Weidenbener)

By the time the coronavirus hit Indiana, Kelly Tingle was already apprehensive.

As an internal-communications specialist at global engine-maker Cummins Inc., she had been dealing with the pandemic’s impact in China and other parts of the world for weeks. So she had a good idea of what was coming.

“I was incredibly anxious about the health of my family and my daughter. I was afraid for my job. I was just so scared,” she said.

On March 13, Cummins sent its staff home to start working virtually, an arrangement that continues today. That only exacerbated Tingle’s anxiety, and she found herself crying in the shower so her 6-year-old daughter, Elena, wouldn’t hear.


Lisette Woloszyk was among the thousands of hospitality workers who lost their jobs after the pandemic hit Indiana in March. (IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

From event manager to stay-at-home mom

Lisette Woloszyk watched things go from bad to worse in March, as cancellations for the city’s hotels racked up alongside COVID-19 cases.

But she and her colleagues at the JW Marriott, where she worked as assistant director of event planning, held out hope the crisis would pass—or at least wouldn’t damn the hospitality industry.

“Every day, things changed, and there were so many different emotions that happened in such a very short period of time,” she said. “We went from thinking like, ‘OK, this is just going to be a couple of cancellations—we’re going to be fine,’ to, ‘OK, well, we’re going have to cut everybody down to a four-day work week.’”

Woloszyk worked for Merrillville-based White Lodging, the JW’s management company, for 13 years, helping run several big events, including Gen Con and the Indianapolis Prize gala for the Indianapolis Zoo. She also managed the New York Giants’ stay at the Marriott Indianapolis Downtown during their 2012 Super Bowl trip.


Quarantining while compromised

Dee Alderman, who is recovering from cancer and has asthma, with her son, Devon, and her husband, Jerry (IBJ photo/Lesley Weidenbener)

Dee Alderman is saddled with some of the underlying conditions that can make COVID-19 significantly more dangerous, even deadly.

The student success coach at IUPUI has severe asthma and a previous bout with cancer (including tumors removed last March) that left her immune system so vulnerable to the coronavirus that her doctors told her this fall—as cases were heating back up—that she needed to stay home.

She could no longer even pick up groceries she’d ordered online, a quick errand that had been an earlier respite from the pandemic’s shutdown.

“I was a hot mess,” Alderman said of the doctor’s orders. “I will own that all day long.”


Dan McFeely spent 11 days in the hospital battling COVID-19. Three months later, he’s still struggling to breathe. (IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

Struggling to recover

On one of the scariest nights of Dan McFeely’s life, doctors told him that, if his oxygen levels didn’t improve, he’d be moved to the intensive care unit.

All alone in a hospital room, he wondered if he was going to die.

“My dark night was a Saturday,” he said.

McFeely, a Carmel resident who works as a communications contractor for the city of Carmel, was diagnosed with COVID-19 in November. He spent 11 days on a floor designated for COVID-19 patients at St. Vincent Carmel Hospital.

It’s been three months since he was released, yet he still struggles with shortness of breath, which might be permanent, and gets exhausted more quickly than before he caught the virus.

“I’m still not 100%. If I over-exert, there are certain times where I just feel like I need to sit down and catch my breath,” he said.

For years, he suffered from bouts of bronchitis and sinusitis. When he fell ill in November, he thought maybe he had a bad cold. But it was all in his lungs, and he was struggling to breathe.


Right place, right time

Jason Welch hopes much of the business his firm picked up during the pandemic will stick around. (IBJ photo/Mickey Shuey)

It’s certainly never been Jason Welch’s wish to make money on the suffering of others. So he has mixed emotions about the additional business his Indy Executive Cleaning Service has enjoyed since the start of the pandemic.

“I always have said this isn’t the way I want to get rich. It’s an unfortunate situation and has affected so many homes,” Welch said. “Too many people have lost their jobs—their lives.”

But Welch said his company was in a position to capitalize on the demand created by the pandemic. And it did so, with a focus on making the service affordable for families, including those who might be in a financial bind because of lost work.

“I have a family,” he said. “I know how it is.”


From job loss comes opportunity

After losing her job, Andrea Haydon is starting her own business doing fine art and graphic design. (IBJ photo/Lesley Weidenbener)

The news came in an email.

It was 10:01 a.m. on May 1. Graphic designer Andrea Haydon had already been working for four hours when it arrived. She only read a few words before she had to stop.

“I thought I was going to throw up,” Haydon said of news that local architecture firm Ratio Design was eliminating her job, one of about 20 it would cut that day across its four offices.

“I was like, ‘My house. I have a mortgage. I have a car payment. I have student loans. I have a cat to feed. What am I going to do?’”


IUPUI professor weary, but hopeful

IU business professor Nolan Taylor said it’s hard to know if students are engaged when their web cameras are off. (IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

Nolan Taylor is exhausted. And so are his students.

The professor at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business at IUPUI has been teaching his classes virtually or through a mix of online and in-person instruction for nearly a year now, but the process has not grown easier. It just gets more grueling by the day.

“Trying to plan for all these eventualities is simply exhausting,” he said. “You have fallback plan upon fallback plan upon fallback plan. And you’re constantly forced to readjust.”

Even relatively easy tasks have become difficult, said Taylor, 56, an assistant professor of information systems who has taught at IUPUI more than 20 years.


Leader of homeless shelter has job flipped upside down

When the pandemic hit, Lori Casson and Dayspring Center had to create a new way of operating. (IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

The pandemic changed just about every aspect of Lori Casson’s job as executive director of Dayspring Center.

She had to move the homeless families the organization serves to a different location to keep them safe. She had to change how the group provided meals. She went from having 100 to 200 volunteers a month to zero. She couldn’t accept donated goods like clothing and household items anymore.

“We just had to figure out a different way of doing things,” Casson said. “Even our families, how we communicate and talk with them, had to be completely changed. It’s not unheard of for one of us to be holding a baby as we conduct a case management meeting.”

“I’d like to think we’re as efficient” now, she said. “But I’m not really sure.”


The huge learning curve

Dr. Caitriona Buckley said nothing in her career prepared her for the stress the pandemic brought her and her colleagues. (IBJ photo/Mickey Shuey)

By the time COVID-19 patients get to Dr. Caitriona Buckley, they are often gasping for breath and multiple organs are failing.

Her job, as pulmonologist in the intensive care unit of Indiana University Health’s University Hospital, is to keep patients alive even as their systems try to shut down.

In normal times, it’s a stressful job. But for the past year, with hundreds of patients arriving in the ICU every month, it’s sometimes been overwhelming.

“Seeing these patients coming in very, very sick, and not knowing how this is going to evolve, or when it was going to stop,” she said. “All of that adds up to a pretty rigorous and difficult day.”


Staying connected to stay in business

Bluebeard co-owner Ed Battista said it has been inspiring to see customers keep showing up to eat outside, even in the cold. (IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

Yes, Bluebeard is one of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants—but that’s not really what the business is about, says its co-owner and president, Ed Battista.

“We’re in the people business,” Battista said. “The food is secondary.”

The Fletcher Place restaurant and its adjacent bakery, Amelia’s, have gone through some radical changes in the past year—all aimed at both keeping the businesses going and maintaining the human relationships at their core.

“Right now, it’s about continuing those connections,” Battista said.


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