April 6, 2021
Typically, we photograph every patient appearing in HealthU. Because this story was planned during the COVID-19 pandemic, that contact would have been too risky. Instead, our team took a creative approach and replaced photo shoots with illustrated portraits of patients.
When 50-year-old Isabel Arbeeny faced COVID-19 in April 2020, her battle was twice as frightening and emotional because she lost her brother-in-law to the virus the same week she was diagnosed. On top of that, the Old Bridge, New Jersey, resident is a two-time cancer survivor, so she fully understood the uncertainty that comes with severe illness.
Isabel’s symptoms of a cough and headache soon turned to more serious ones, including intense weakness, dizziness and fainting. The morning of May 4, after waking up feeling very ill, Isabel fainted in her bathroom and vomited while she was passed out. Her husband called an ambulance, which quickly took her to nearby Raritan Bay Medical Center – Old Bridge.
“I felt like I was going downhill quickly,” she says. “I remember thinking, ‘I’m not going to get out of this.’ I was so scared.”
Fortunately, Isabel’s condition improved at the hospital. She required oxygen for a short while and several antibiotics, but she didn’t need a ventilator. After five days, she was well enough to return home.
During Isabel’s hospital stay, her family couldn’t join her because of COVID-19 visitor restrictions. But the care she received from everyone at the hospital—from her nurses to her doctors to the team members who delivered her meals—filled that gap for her.
“When I came in with the ambulance, I had nothing with me, so a nurse found me some items like a toothbrush, toothpaste and wipes,” Isabel recalls. “Nurses would peek in to my room every 30 minutes to see how I was doing and if I needed anything. On my worst day, one of my nurses sat next to me, holding my hand and comforting me. I don’t think I could have had a better hospital experience.”
After she left the hospital, Isabel wanted to show her gratitude for the team that cared for her. She knew they were receiving plenty of food and meals from the community, so she made a cash donation instead.
It took Isabel several months to fully recover, and she still is experiencing short-term memory loss. But she is grateful for the team that helped her return home to her husband and son.
“The wonderful care I received at Raritan Bay really stood out to me,” she says. “Every person was so patient and kind, which was what I needed since I was alone there.”
Next Steps & Resources:
- If you had a great experience with a caregiver, share your story or learn more about donations to Hackensack Meridian Health
- Care across generations
- Foundation donor walks the talk
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.