Citymeals on Wheels recipient Bernito

When asked how he’s feeling, Bernito shrugs. “Not so good,” he says, “but not so bad.” That means today is a good day. For the past four years, when Bernito wakes up in the morning, he’s never sure which it will be. Since 2020, he’s been dealing with the lingering effects of Covid 19. His list of symptoms is varied — sudden, racing heart, a constant tremor in his right hand and vertigo that comes in waves, leaving him unable to stand. “Sometimes, I can’t get out of bed.”

Just a few years ago, Bernito was working full-time in construction as a plumber. But when he failed to recover from Covid, Bernito was forced into early retirement. “I’m 65 years old,” he says. “When I was 55, I was feeling good. I was working, I was feeling fine. The Covid took everything out of me.”

I used to like to cook, but now I can't. I get dizzy a lot. 

Most days, he spends in his chair by the window of his Bronx apartment, looking out onto the street. There are many things Bernito used to do easily that he can no longer do. Because of his vertigo, he struggles to dress himself in the morning or get in and out of the tub to shower. Carmen, his long-term girlfriend, has to help him with these things, as well as preparing food. But Carmen can’t always be there for him. “I used to like to cook, but now I can’t,” Bernito explains. “I get dizzy a lot.”  That’s where Citymeals comes in. Bernito has been receiving home-delivered meals since he first got sick. It ensures that, no matter what, he gets at least one meal a day. It’s something Bernito is grateful for.

Citymeals on Wheels recipient Bernito looking out the window of his Bronx apartment.

On “good” days, Bernito likes to get out some fresh air. “I can’t walk far,” he says, though with the aid of his cane, he can make it to the park at the end of the block. The main obstacle is the staircase in his apartment building. Bernito lives on the fifth floor. When he’s feeling well enough, he can go down the stairs fine, but climbing back up is a different story. He needs to use the elevator, which doesn’t always work. If it’s out of order, then Bernito is stuck inside.

It’s one of the reasons Bernito and Carmen are hoping they can move to an apartment on a lower floor. Especially since it doesn’t seem like Bernito will fully recover. “It’s a nightmare,” he says. “I used to see sick people before, but I didn’t know. I didn’t know until now.”