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My Turn: Gratitude for the heroes of the coronavirus crisis

It is truly heartbreaking that the deadly COVID-19 virus has attacked my mother’s extended family of residents, volunteers and caregivers at the Long Island State Veterans Home. For more than a year, my mother has received compassionate care from the extraordinary team at the Long Island Sate Veterans Home, just like my late father, a World War II combat veteran, did.

During my career as an investigator and as an educator, I had the privilege of meeting thousands of frontline caregivers in hospitals, assisted-living facilities and nursing homes. So even before my parents were admitted to the nursing home, I knew that nurses, doctors, social workers, nursing assistants and health professionals are heroes.

But, as a frequent visitor to the nursing home, I experienced firsthand the kindness of every person on the team in the special place that my mother calls her home.

Let me explain:

My mother, Betty Cassidy, understood when she was admitted to the Long Island State Veterans Home that this would be the last stop in her 94-year journey. She was not frightened or alone; she was home. It was the same home that she visited every day when my father, Hugh “Joe” Cassidy, was a resident. Her extended nursing-home family welcomed my mother with open arms and love.

My brother and I were comforted to see the smile on our mother’s face as she was embraced by her friends and caregivers as soon as she entered the nursing home, and every day after.

Sundays were especially enjoyable for me as I would attend Catholic Mass with my mother and hundreds of veterans, caregivers, families, volunteers and Father Tom. No matter how frustrated, tired or busy I was, my mood always brightened as soon as I saw my mother holding her rosary beads. As I sat next to her, I would glance toward the front of the makeshift altar. There were rows and rows of disabled veterans in wheelchairs being helped by an army of volunteers from our Long Island community, the Knights of Columbus and the American Legion.

The heartless attack by the invisible coronavirus enemy upon our most vulnerable population has brought pain, suffering and sorrow for patients, families and friends. But sadly, the COVID-19 battle is far from over for the courageous heroes at the Long Island State Veterans Home who put their own lives on the line to care for veterans and their spouses every minute of every day.

To them, I say, “Thank you for your service!”

Thomas M. Cassidy,

Setauket

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