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When there isn't a pandemic happening, Citymeals staff often have the opportunity to visit with meal recipients – hearing about their lives and taking pictures for stories like these. But for everyone's safety, visits have become phone calls. Here's how Dorothy is doing in her own words:
In the final years of her nursing career, Dorothy was one of the countless first responders working at Ground Zero after the September 11th attacks. She recalls how the city came together to grieve – it wasn't uncommon to see complete strangers hugging one another for support. Covid-19 is different, she explains. "It didn't force you to isolate at home."
Despite being trapped in her apartment, Dorothy is keen to stay updated on news about the virus. She's particularly amazed that Dr. Fauci is nearly the same age as her. Asked how she manages, Dorothy replies "Citymeals on Wheels is getting me through. I'm very grateful."
80-year-old Dorothy, like so many New Yorkers, is the quintessential mix of lifelong city dweller and cosmopolitan world traveler. She’s just as quick to root for the Knicks as she is to recount her many trips across Europe, Asia and Africa.
From her teenage years as a candy striper, Dorothy knew she wanted to be a nurse. Despite the expectation she would marry and have children, Dorothy chose college instead. After graduating, she took a job at Bellevue Hospital. With her signature wit, Dorothy recalls “It was a magnificent place to work, if you’re into excitement.”
Over her five-decade career, Dorothy held many roles, including in the Emergency Room and the city’s first AIDS clinic. No matter where she was stationed, Dorothy never wanted anything more than to be at a patient’s bedside.
That’s why every time her supervisors encouraged Dorothy to take an administrative role, she declined, saying “I want to be there for the patient who is sick, not worry about someone’s time sheet.” It was this dedication – along with her charisma and humor – that left a mark on every person for whom she cared.
In her free time, Dorothy was pursuing her other favorite passion: travel. Almost as soon she returned home from a trip, she’d be planning her next getaway. On a particularly memorable excursion to Egypt, Dorothy stood in silent wonder at the Pyramids of Giza until a camel driver told her to put her hands on the stones. She laughs, recalling her amazement, “Oh yeah, I can touch the Pyramids!”
In Dorothy’s final years as a nurse, she became one of the everyday New Yorkers who responded to the September 11th attacks. Within days, she was working at a respite center only two blocks from the rubble. Despite the anguish and shock rippling through the city, Dorothy told herself over and over this was why she became a nurse – to deliver care and compassion in times of crisis.
Sadly, only a few years later, Dorothy began to lose her eyesight. At 72, she was forced to retire. “It was terrible. I cried like a baby,” Dorothy confides, nearly choking on her raw grief.
Grocery stores are a nightmare if you're blind.
Soon, difficulty reading labels became an inability to navigate basic tasks. “Grocery stores are a nightmare if you’re blind,” she admits. After a lifetime caring for others, it was difficult for Dorothy to accept support, but our regular deliveries mean food is one less thing to worry about.
And one day last fall, that delivery saved Dorothy’s life. Her meal deliverer became concerned when he knocked and there was no answer. With the help of the building superintendent, he gained access to the apartment and found Dorothy unconscious on the floor. “He saved my life. I would’ve been there for a long time, if not dead.”
Waking up in the hospital, Dorothy felt humiliated realizing she was on the same floor where she had been a nurse 25 years before. It was a stark reminder of the independence she has lost and how her life has changed in only a few short years.
Thankfully, Dorothy was able to leave the hospital and return home, knowing there will always be a regular knock at the door from Citymeals. Today, Dorothy says, “This is where I am. I have to take the help people are willing to give you.”