(I want to thank you)
Health care workers on the front lines of coronavirus Epidemic Offering more than just medical services. He gave Americans emotional support, connectedness, and innovative solutions.
Here are the stories of a disabled woman, her father and her caregivers; a lawyer and physician to his late mother; woman with paraplegia and her domestic health assistant; And a contact tracer.
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Thank you for taking care of my ‘severely disabled’ daughter
In 2001, Doug Jacobi was reading to his 5-year-old daughter, Devon, at their Easton, Connecticut, home when the book fell to the floor. She climbed onto his lap and picked him up—a spontaneous moment for most families, but for the Jacobis, it was unprecedented.
With that simple action, Devon, who has brain damage and is nonverbal, defied doctors who told her parents that she would always be slow to respond to stimuli. (She doesn’t have an official diagnosis, but is “severely disabled,” said her father.)
In 2020, Devon Jacobi was receiving assistance at the St. Catherine’s Center for Special Needs in Fairfield, Connecticut, and has been around since she was 21. But when the pandemic closed the center, its progress was threatened: Consistent engagement is vital to its development, said Doug Jacobi, 72.
“You fear that lack of stimulation, lack of seeing faces, lack of experience, she will withdraw and she will lose awareness,” he said.
Then, in April 2020, the center began offering virtual programming on Zoom, and for two to three hours a day, Devon Jacobi was busy and happy. (Her parents are divorced, and she spends time with each of them.) During music therapy sessions, she would bang her head. When the center reopened in July 2020, her father knew he was sending her back, at 26, to the people who really cared for her.
“You don’t work with people like my daughter and do it well because it’s a job. You do it because it’s a calling,” he said. Have a lot of gratitude.”
The center’s virtual sessions also included weather updates and story timing. During music therapy, Doug Jacobi, who works from home as a freelance writer, holds a wooden spoon in his daughter’s hand and helps her bang it against a pot.
“It takes time to really get to know him, but when you do, you can understand when he’s happy,” he said. “Most of the time of the story, with the music on, you can tell she was engaged.”
Thank you for being more than just a doctor to my sick mother
Most of the calls Jackie Marzon made to her mother’s doctors to report her death from COVID-19 in November 2020 followed a familiar script: doctors expressed shock, offered their condolences and said goodbye.
And then Marzan, sitting in her mother’s apartment in the New York City Borough of Queens, called Dr. Vanessa Tiongson, her mother’s neurologist at Mount Sinai Hospital. They talked for more than two hours.
“She was asking me, ‘How do you feel?’ And then she was sharing with me how she felt,” said Marzan, 51. “She said, ‘Oh, your mom – I’m going to miss her. She was my favorite.'”
Marzan’s mother, Aura Shirley Sarmiento, generally preferred that her doctors speak Spanish; Tiongson didn’t, but he earned Sarmiento’s trust nonetheless. Shortly before his death, Sarmiento called Marzan crying tears of joy: Teongsan’s positive attitude had given him hope.
Teongsan’s sympathy stuck with Marzan as the pandemic decimated her family: next year, Marzan will lose her grandmother and two aunts to COVID-19. In April, her father-in-law also died of the virus.
“Imagine the holidays, and you go home for the holidays and you see a kitchen full of women cooking food,” Marzan said. “In my case, all those women are cooking. They’re all gone.”
As the months went by, she found fewer conversational partners who were willing to discuss COVID-19 and his family.
“People don’t want to hear about COVID,” she said. “They say, ‘Oh, it’s not that bad now.’ It’s like that, yes, but COVID, it entered our lives.”
Don’t forget Teongsan. In January, Marzan received a holiday card from Teongsan, which contained a picture of the Doctor’s children and a note expressing his love for Sarmiento. “I thought, ‘Who does this?’ Marjan said.
Although she considers herself a minimum, she said, she will always have room in her house for that card.
Thank you for being my domestic ally and having compassion
Annie Verchik, a woman with paraplegia and a traumatic brain injury living in rural Laporte, Colorado, has worked with a revolving door of domestic colleagues. But over the years, as the pandemic further exacerbated Varchik’s isolation, his relationship with domestic colleague, Karen Coty, turned into a friendship.
In the spring of 2021, when Varchik was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, Coty accompanied Varchik to her appointments and brought her ginger ale and ice packs.
“Over and over again, he just showed up,” Vorchik, 57, said.
Coty first began working with Varchik in 2016, and soon they were arguing about werewolf romance novels and a hit TV show “M.-A.-S.-H” that ran from 1972–83. “Were dissecting.
“It was okay to have things silly and not be sad all the time,” Verchik said. “Karen is really disinterested in treating people as if they’re special and precious, which makes her a huge win for me. You don’t have to be special. You’re a perfect human being—that’s in a chair. This A really rare attitude.”
Coty stopped working with Varchik in November 2018 so he could go back to school before returning in the summer of 2019. When Verchik, who has neurogenic bowel disease, was called an “incontinence disaster” and could co-workers determined to work that day. Didn’t show up, he called Coty, who was there 10 minutes later. Koti cleaned everything up and slept for the next two nights.
Coty resumed his position with Verchik and remained there during the pandemic. She left last July to pursue other opportunities — but not before training Verchik’s new colleagues.
“I don’t know that she feels on any level how meaningful this is,” Verchik said of Coty’s friendship.
Thank you for letting me help you as a contact tracer
There was complete silence in the house of Jennifer Guy Cook. Therefore, he filled it with the voices of strangers.
Cook, 68, had spent more than three decades running a day care out of his home in Brighton, New York. She landed a position with New York State when the business closed due to the pandemic COVID-19 Contact-tracing initiatives. She had found a purpose: to help people through difficult times in their lives.
For 20 hours a week, Cook would call people who had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive. COVID-19. Cook only worked from December 2020 to June 2021, but he is grateful for the connections he made.
“I wanted to be part of the help,” Cook said. “I could definitely make phone calls.”
In the midst of the gray Brighton winter, Cook enjoyed human connection. (She used to tease fathers who forgot their children’s birthdays, joking that mothers in general have less difficulty remembering them.) On the surface, her work was informative: she was exposed to viruses and potential warning signs. to provide facts about. But it turned into much more.
“Some of the people I talked to were in a state of being scared, and worried, and worried for their kids, or worried for their parents,” Cook said.
This is where the cook would intervene with a mild joke or words of encouragement. “It’s injecting your own humanity into the conversation,” she said. “And just by doing that, it changes everything.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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