Written by Michele Maki.
Christmas came early this year. For a South River resident, it will be a Christmas to remember above all others. Kathleen Piscicelli from Middlesex County recounts the terrifying night that changed her life and the Christmas miracle that then occurred. “I didn’t think the hurricane was going to be so bad; I thought it would be like hurricane Irene, so I wasn’t too worried. I went to bed that night, then Sandy hit. My husband woke me up and told me the water was coming in, and we had to get out. I couldn’t walk, so my husband carried me out and the neighbors took us in. I was so scared.”
For nine days, and without power the Piscicelli’s, their neighbors and their neighbor’s friends hunkered down by candlelight. “I didn’t know these people, but they took us in. We’re strangers, and they still took us in.” Piscicelli exclaims.
Once power was restored, the hunt for more permanent shelter began. “We stayed in a motel for a while, then found another place. But since I lost my wheelchair in the storm, I couldn’t get out. My husband had to carry me because I can’t walk. When the Red Cross came, I knew things were going to look up.”
Red Cross recovery caseworkers Angie Day and Triet Nguyen were interviewing Piscicelli and listening to her story of surviving the storm. “I realized that no one had taken the time to listen to her story and her needs. She’s been trapped in her room, like a prisoner.” Day explained. “We knew we needed to act on this need, quickly.” Day and Nguyen lost no time. Within hours they had contacted the Red Cross Health Services manager Mary Steece, RN for help. “ We knew that her need to become mobile was paramount to her recovery process.” She explained.
By the following day, the logistics department at the Red Cross had located a wheelchair, donated anonymously, in their warehouse, and within hours, arrangements were being made to deliver it to Piscicelli. Caseworkers Ola Sudan and Bill Moncrief, RN picked up the wheelchair and were on their way for delivery when Sudan decided to take that extra step. “It’s Christmas time,” she explained. “And I thought it would be nice to bring something to help cheer her up and make it feel Christmassy.”
When the Kathleen and Fabio Piscicelli greeted these Red Cross workers, they had the surprise of a lifetime. To Kathleen Piscicelli’s astonishment, the Red Cross not only provided her with a brand new wheelchair, but also a little decorated Christmas tree, fruit basket, bath items and a much needed shower chair. “It didn’t feel like Christmas,” Piscicelli tearfully recounts. “There was no tree. We were safe. We had a roof over our head, but no tree. But now…oh my…I have a tree! I never expected…”. There was hardly a dry eye in the room, as Piscicelli expressed her appreciation, “Thank you so much. I know now that things are going to get better. It’s going to be ok now. Thank you, Red Cross.”
Santa can be extra proud of his helpers this year. From the coordinated efforts of the casework volunteers to health services team to the logistics workers, Santa’s Red Cross helpers carried out a Christmas miracle for one lady in need.