Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

‘Community treasure’ struggles with COVID-19, staph infection | Local News

For decades, Karen Webb has spent Thanksgiving serving others – customers at restaurants and hotels where she has worked and families in need through her leadership in local Christmas toy promotions.

Webb, who is nearly 70, spent Thanksgiving in a hospital bed.

Despite being fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in March, Webb contracted COVID-19 in October as so-called breakthrough cases of the disease increased in the state amid a surge in the delta variant of the virus.

As soon as she heard the news, Webb remembered, “I was scared.”

Their bad luck was not over yet. She later developed staph infection which she is now fighting with the help of Faith, Friends, Prayer, Humor, and a GoFundMe initiative, fueled by donations from many of the customers she has known and loved over the decades.

“I know this city and this city has done me good,” said Webb, a native of New Jersey who moved to Santa Fe in 1971. Her name and face became known to those who dined at the original Plaza Cafe downtown or her sister restaurant, Plaza Cafe Southside, where she has been waiting for tables for nearly three decades.

The job earned her a spot in a nearly 20-year-old documentary about waitresses – which led customers to cast curious glances and ask, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”

Belinda Marshall, friend and associate of Plaza Cafe who started the GoFundMe campaign for Webb, said she was good for the city.

“She’s a community treasure,” said Marshall. “The people who come in here love them. That’s where all the money for GoFundMe comes from. When people find out that she is sick, they want to help. Karen does that too; If someone needs help, she is there. She’s always doing things for our community. “

Speaking from her hospital bed on Wednesday – wearing her red lipstick – Webb sometimes gave tears to tears at the pain, frustration and fear she was feeling.

“It’s a little scary to be 70 and stand on your back,” she said.

She’s not quite 70; This birthday will come in January.

This month it will be 50 years since she came to Santa Fe from the east coast. When asked what brought her to City Different, she smiled naughty and said, “It’s dirty; I’m not telling! “

After a moment she added, “That’s where God wanted me.”

She spoke of the first house she had rented in town that had an outbuilding. It was on the corner of Siler Road and Agua Fría Street. She paid $ 15 a month for that.

At that time Santa Fe was a “wild city” in which “everyone carried a weapon on their hips”.

She worked in a number of well-known hotels before starting at the Plaza Cafe.

One day, filmmaker Vanessa Vassar came in and said she was looking for an experienced server for her documentary American Waitress, New Mexico. With her sunny and sassy demeanor, glasses that seemed to have a life of their own, and recognizable black bangs, Webb suited this role and told the story of the daily joys and pains of life in the service industry.

Released in 2002, the documentary was shown at a number of film festivals, including Santa Fe and Taos, before seeing extended running times on a number of documentary TV channels.

For 38 years, Webb helped run the annual Wings for Hope Toy Run in Santa Fe and found ways to provide clothes for children who needed them. Your customers often helped; She would find out what size a girl could wear and then ask known customers if they wanted to pass on a dress that size from a daughter who had outgrown it.

Despite her illnesses, Webb remains lively and fun, praising the staff at the Christ St. Vincent Regional Medical Center where she is cared for. She founded a cupcake club for the staff at the hospital’s COVID-19 ward. she asks anyone armed with candy to drop something off at the entrance.

Two packs of oreo cookies go a long way in keeping the mood up there, she said.

Still, she has had a difficult battle with COVID-19. She described extreme pain and hallucinations. One morning, she said, she woke up in the COVID-19 ward and asked the nurses why she wasn’t wearing her brownies outfit from her youth.

“COVID influenced me mentally and emotionally; you lose a lot of memory, “she said. “You are very isolated so your mind starts to wander.”

After a while she said, “I felt like a prisoner of war.”

She recovered and was sent home, where she only spent half a day before discovering an infection in her right arm. She was in the hospital again that night.

“Wouldn’t it be a shame if I survived COVID and died of staph?” She asked.

She has no self-pity, she said. “Sometimes it’s just your turn and that’s all.”

Laughter helps. It’s what holds us all together regardless of the differences, she said.

She also comes from a family with a good sense of humor.

On her second day at the hospital for COVID-19 treatment, her phone rang. She replied and a man said, “This is just a reminder that this is your last chance to extend the warranty on your vehicle.”

Angry and scared, she cut off the caller. “Don’t you know you’re calling a COVID station?” She asked, slamming the phone down.

The phone rang again. The same voice spoke to her in a much more reassuring tone: “Don’t you even recognize your brother’s voice?”

She couldn’t help but laugh.

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