Woman, 84, Says Nurse Helped Her Beat Coronavirus: 'I Love Her'
RIVERHEAD, NY — They met at a hospital during the height of the coronavirus crisis, a woman who spent her 84th birthday fighting for her life and the certified nursing assistant who refused to let her die.
Today, Lenore Friedman is back home in Merrick after eight weeks spent battling the virus at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead — and she credits her survival to CNA Dani Foskey, who, she said, saved her life with a can-do spirit that refused to let her give up.
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The feeling was unabatedly mutual.
On the day that Friedman was released, Foskey wrote on Facebook: “I remember the first day I met you and I was shaking in my scrubs.” Foskey brought Friedman flowers as she left the hospital. “It was only right I be there to wish you well and see you off. Eight weeks and my lady finally came back COVID-free. If I didn’t know what I was meant to do in life before, I promise today it was solidified.”
Foskey said she was Friedman’s first CNA, when she got to her unit. “I had just started working at the hospital a couple weeks before the outbreak and quarantine, but I have been an aide for almost seven years,” she said. “I worked with a lady who was on airborne precautions and ended up being the ‘chosen one’ to work on our COVID east unit,” she said. “Lenore was literally the only patient on the floor with me and my amazing nurses Carrie Murphy and Brooke Campbell. We were scared to death, honestly, of what was to come.”
Then, Foskey said, she met Friedman. “And to my surprise, she was nothing like I had pictured. In my head, COVID-19 was a monster with three heads. But here she was, this regular looking lady with the most spitfire sense of humor,” she said.
Friedman, she said, “lessened the blows for me every day, as our COVID unit went from one patient to 30. Lenore and I have laughed and cried together, all in the same minute. I would put Frank Sinatra on her Pandora and take her outside to get some fresh air,” she said. “We sat and watched the cars pass and the flowers bloom.”
Foskey also thanked her fellow “COVID warriors” at the hospital, Kelly Schuman and Barbara Marshall.
“When I heard Lenore was finally going home I just happened to have been given the day off so I went to the flower shop,” Foskey said. “She thought she wasn’t going to see me again so I waited outside with her daughter Wendy and surprised her. It was an amazing feeling to watch her go home healthy and to be a part of her journey here. I’m so glad to have known her and happy that we both have had such an impact on each other’s lives. I love her to pieces.”
When Friedman speaks of Foskey, she talks of a forever bond formed in the most unlikely of places.
“Dani is probably a saint — and let me tell you why,” she said. “Ask anybody in the hospital; I was out of it. I had gotten to the point where I wasn’t even going to try anymore. But she’s a toughie. She sat in that chair and leaned back like a police officer and said, ‘You’re going to get up and you’re going to walk. You’re going to do this. I’ll walk with you, but you’re going to do this.’ She motivated me. And not with ‘honey, sweetie, darlings.’ She made me get up and made me do what I needed to do. And then, she’d put her arms around me and say, ‘It’s going to be okay.'”
Foskey, she said, “gave me the inspiration to live. I love her.”
Even her daughter Wendy, Friedman said, “fell in love with Dani through the window. You have no idea what a gift she is. She gave me back my will to fight. She saved me.”
At one point Friedman, who went to the hospital for a broken kneecap after a fall only to be diagnosed with COVID-19, or, as she calls it, “the plague,” said she was barely hanging on “by one fingernail. My will was gone.”
Being in the hospital during the crisis, Friedman said, was a blur of masked men and women coming into the room. “It was like an old western,” she said. “I gave up hope.”
Until Foskey came into that room and brought a new determination and will to Friedman’s fierce battle.
“My mother sent her to me,” Friedman said. “Everyone at that hospital was great, but Dani just looked at me, and I don’t know why, I’m an old broad, but Dani saw something in me that was worth fighting for. She just made the difference. She’s a total gift. She’s in the right profession. She has this patience, even in this crazy time.”
Friedman, who is normally active, going to the gym, to temple, attending art and Civil War groups, and socializing with friends, found herself unconscious for much of her two months; her family, including her three daughters Wendy, Amy, and Lori, were terrified.
At first, Friedman admitted, she thought Foskey was “mean,” with her no-nonsense ways. “But she was the kindest,” she said. “I used to look on the board and if her name was on it, I felt better.”
Her own mother, Friedman said, taught her that something good can come of even the worst of times. “Besides survival, the best thing that. came out of this was Dani,” she said. “She’s a gift from God.”
Friedman, too, spoke of the moments in the garden, filled with Frank Sinatra and hope. Foskey, she said, put her own coat around her shoulders. “She just became my mom,” she said. “She has what every person in the nursing field should have. She has a heart. If my mother were here, she would squeeze her hand and say she has compassion.”
Friedman, who came home about a week ago, said in her life she’s had many experiences, majoring in art at NYU, raising three daughters, caring for her husband through a lengthy illness. But nothing prepared her for how the world changed while she was in a hospital room fighting COVID-19.
“I went in when there was a sickness coming and when I left, there was an epidemic happening,” she said.
Despite it all, she’s kept her irrepressible spirit. “You don’t play the hand you want, you play the hand you are dealt,” she said. “You don’t sit in a chair and wait to die prematurely. You have to push through. I had a bad thing happen, but I found something very good. And her name was Dani. She didn’t just save my physical life, she saved my mind. She and Frank Sinatra. Everyone in their life should meet a Dani — if they’re lucky.”