Sharing Our Stories: Alumnae Stories from the Pandemic

Deborah Hipkins 73Deborah Hipkins ’73 graduated from Douglass with a degree in American Studies. After getting a degree in nursing in 2006, she spent many years working as a nurse. She has returned to celebrate milestone reunions and traveled to Egypt with the AADC Alumnae Travel program in 2019. Here is her story, shared on June 18, 2020.

I’m a Jersey girl, born and raised, and I’ve lived in Silver Spring, MD, for over 30 years. If you had told me after I graduated from Douglass that I would become a nurse, I would have thought – and said – you were crazy.

After several careers in unrelated fields, I ended up getting my BSN in 2006 from Georgetown University and have been a Registered Nurse working in community health, primary care, school health and occupational health since then.

I was semi-retired before COVID-19, working one day a week as a school nurse, visiting the elderly and infirm in nursing homes and assisted living facilities as a minister in my church, enjoying church life on Sundays and the daily life of a mom and grandmom.

Then in mid-March schools closed, churches closed, nursing homes closed, and my normal life changed. No more getting together with friends, shopping when I wanted to, eating out when wanted to – even walking next door to the library was over. My normal life was gone and in its place was Zoom, Google Duo, Facebook, and YouTube. And then came April.

We had been praying unceasingly, as the Bible commands, for my brother-in-law, who was hospitalized in New Jersey with COVID-19. My sister, Marquita Lynn Hobbs*, had the signs and symptoms, but since her husband was positive, she was not tested. My sister was told to go home and self-isolate, which she did, separating herself from her two adult children who were preparing meals and leaving them outside her bedroom door.

The prayers that she sought for her husband were answered and he was improving. Little did we know that her condition was getting worse. And on April 14th her son discovered her, dead on the floor of her bedroom. My baby sister, age 64, who had been married for almost 40 years to her beloved husband, was gone. My sister, who celebrated every occasion, big or small. My sister, who I had spoken to less than 24 hours before, who I had bantered back and forth with as sisters do. I thank God that our conversations always ended with “Love you.” “Love you, too.”

So here I am in Maryland, my brother is in Washington, DC, and I have one remaining sister in New Jersey. All we could do was love and help her family from a distance, using all of the available technology to support, pray for and with them, while being supported by our family and friends, both close-by and distant.

This new and evolving disease has struck home for me and I’m forever changed. It is the new normal for this sister, mom, grandma, nurse.

I’ve stopped keeping track of statistics, policy decisions, and unfolding medical advances because the worst has happened in our family. The way I feel now, anything else will be an improvement.

*Marquita Lynn Hipkins Hobbs passed away from Coronavirus on April 14, 2020. She was born in Orange, NJ, and graduated from Orange High School. She was married to Cornell Hobbs Jr. for nearly 40 years and the mother of Cornell III and Tiffany. Marquita had an over 40-year award winning career as a paraprofessional at Essex County West Caldwell Technical School. She worked tirelessly for the community, including Breast Cancer Awareness, Clinton Memorial Church Community Events, providing entertainment shows and activities for local school students and PACTION Community Events in Newark, NJ. She was always involved with planning family reunions and keeping family ties strong. In 2013 Marquita was awarded the PACTION Unsung Angels Award. She leaves behind a large and loving family, including her sister, Deborah. Following her death, Marquita was honored publicly by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy for her dedication and achievements. 

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