How the health care workers got me through the pandemic

This article is part of the I Want to Thank You series. We ask our readers to tell us who helped them through the pandemic; This is a collection of their stories about health care workers. We published an article about Family and Friendsand an upcoming article that will focus on inspirational figures.

Healthcare workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic provide more medical services. They gave American morale support, connectivity, and creative solutions.

These are the stories of a disabled woman, her father and her caregivers; a lawyer and doctor of her late mother; a woman with hemiplegia and her home health aide; and a contact trace.

In 2001, Doug Jacoby was reading a book to his 5-year-old daughter, Devon, at their home in Easton, Conn., when the book fell on the floor. She climbed out of his lap and scooped it up—an innocuous moment for most families, but for the Jacobys it was a breakthrough.

With that simple act, Devon, who had brain damage and was speechless, defied doctors who told her parents she would always be slow to react to stimuli. (She doesn’t have an official diagnosis but is “severely disabled,” her father said.)

In 2020, Ms. Jacoby received assistance at the Saint Catherine Special Needs Center in Fairfield, Conn., and she turned 21. But when the pandemic closed the center, her progress was threatened. : Ongoing participation is crucial to Ms. Jacoby’s Development, Mr. Jacoby said.

Mr Jacoby, 72, said: ‘You’re afraid that lack of stimulation, not seeing the face, lack of experience, she will slip and lose consciousness.

Then, in April 2020, the center started offering virtual programming via Zoom, and for two to three hours a day, Ms. Jacoby was engaged and fun. (Miss Jacoby’s parents are divorced, and she splits her time with each of them.) During music therapy sessions, she’ll hang her head to the beat. When the center reopened in July 2020, Mr Jacoby knew he would send Ms Jacoby, now 26, back to people who truly cared about her.

“You don’t work with people like my daughter and do well because it’s work. You do it because it’s a calling,” Mr. Jacoby said. “I have too much gratitude to be able to express it.”

The hub’s virtual sessions also include weather and story time updates. During music therapy, Mr. Jacoby, who works from home as a freelance writer, will hold the wooden spoon in Ms. Jacoby’s hand and help her smash it into the pot.

Mr Jacoby said: “It takes time to really get to know her, but when you do, you can sense when she is happy. “Most of the time with the music, most of the time in the story time, you can tell she’s engaged.”

Most of the calls Jackie Marzan made to her mother’s doctors to announce her death from Covid-19 in November 2020 followed a familiar scenario: The doctors expressed shock, sharing sad and say goodbye.

And then Ms. Marzan, sitting in her mother’s apartment in Queens, called Dr Vanessa Tiongson, her mother’s neurologist at Mount Sinai Hospital. They talked for more than two hours.

“She asked me, ‘How to friend feel?’ And then she shared with me how she Marzan, 51, said. “She said, ‘Oh, your mom – I’ll miss her. She is my favorite. ‘”

Marzan’s mother, Aura Shirley Sarmiento, often preferred her doctors to speak Spanish; Dr. Tiongson did not, but earned the trust of Mrs. Sarmiento nonetheless. Not long before her death, Mrs. Sarmiento called Ms. Marzan crying with joy: Dr. Tiongson’s positive attitude gave her hope.

Dr. Tiongson’s empathy sticks with Ms. Marzan as the pandemic ravages her family: In the next year, Ms. Marzan will lose her grandmother and two aunts to Covid. In April, her father-in-law also died of the virus.

“Imagine the holidays, you come home for the holidays and you find a kitchen full of women cooking,” Ms. Marzan said. “In my case, it’s all the women who cook. All of them are gone.”

As the months passed, she found fewer chat partners willing to discuss Covid and her family.

“People don’t want to hear about Covid,” she said. “They said, ‘Oh, it’s not that bad anymore.’ It’s like, yes, but Covid, it’s infiltrated our lives. “

Dr. Tiongson did not forget. In January, Ms. Marzan received a holiday card from Dr. Tiongson, with a photo of the doctor’s children and a note expressing her love for Ms. Sarmiento. “I thought, Who does this?” Mrs. Marzan said.

Despite calling herself a minimalist, she says, she’ll always have room in the house for that card.

Annie Verchick, a woman with hemiplegia and traumatic brain injury living in rural Laporte, Colo., worked with a revolving door of home assistants. But over the past few years, as the pandemic has isolated Ms. Verchick, her relationship with Karen Coty, a home aide, has blossomed into friendship.

In the spring of 2021, when Ms Verchick was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, Ms Coty accompanied Ms Verchick to her appointments and brought her ginger beer and ice packs.

Ms Verchick, 57, said: ‘Over and over again, she showed up.

Ms. Coty first began working with Ms. Verchick in 2016, and soon they were happily arguing over werewolf romance novels and dissecting “M*A*S*H”, the TV show famous from 1972 to 1983.

Ms Verchick said: “It’s okay when things get silly and not tragic. “Karen really doesn’t care about treating people like they’re special and precious, which makes her a huge win for me. You don’t have to be special. You are a complete human being – the one sitting in the chair. It’s a really rare attitude.”

Ms. Coty stopped working with Ms. Verchick in November 2018 so she could go to school, before returning in the summer of 2019. When Ms. Verchick, who suffered from neurological dysfunction, realized what she called an “uncontrollable disaster” and the aides scheduled. for work that day, unable to show up, she called Miss Coty, who was there 10 minutes later. Miss Coty cleaned everything up and slept for the next two nights.

Ms. Coty continued her work with Ms. Verchick and weathered the pandemic. She left in July this year to pursue other opportunities, but not before training Ms. Verchick’s new assistants.

“I don’t know to what extent she realized it meant something,” Ms. Verchick said of Coty’s friendship.

Jennifer Guy Cook’s house is eerily quiet. So she filled it with voices of strangers.

Ms. Cook, 68, has spent the past three decades providing daycare at her home in Brighton, NY. When her business closed due to the pandemic, she secured a position with the initiative. ​New York State Covid contact tracing. She found a purpose: to help people get through tough times in their lives.

For 20 hours a week, Cook will call people who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid. Ms. Cook only held the job from December 2020 to June 2021, but she is grateful for the relationships she has forged.

Ms Cook said: “I want to be a part of helping. “I can definitely make a phone call.”

In the dreary Brighton winter, Mrs. Cook delights in human connection. (She’ll tease dads who’ve forgotten their children’s birthdays, joking that it’s often less difficult for mothers to remember them.) On the surface, her job is to provide information: She has to provide it. Facts about the virus and potential warning signs. But it turned into much more.

“Some of the people I spoke to were just in situations of fear, anxiety, and concern for their children or worry for their parents,” Ms. Cook said.

That’s where Ms. Cook would interject with a light-hearted joke or words of encouragement. “It injects your own humanity into the conversation,” she says. “And just by doing that, it will change everything.”

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