Wallie Hawkins, 78, has an indomitable spirit. This has never been more on display than the past few weeks as he battled and recovered from COVID-19, returning home to AHRC NYC’s Munson residence in the Bronx to a rousing ovation from his housemates and caretakers on Wednesday, April 8.

When he walked into the house and he pumped his fist, I knew Wallie was back,” said Residence Manager, Yvonne White. “Staff members were in tears. He is the oldest person in the residence and we did not know if he would make it through.”

A Terrifying Ordeal

Yvonne described Wallie as a “happy-go-lucky person who always has a smile on his face. He has a heart of gold and he is a treat to be around.”

Direct support staff at Munson residence noticed that Wallie had developed flu-like symptoms on Wednesday, March 25th. “We thought he was dehydrated at first and the nurse agreed with us,” said Assistant Manager, Ines Castillo. “But he began losing a lot of weight. There were few people he would talk to. We started getting very scared.”

Wallie Hawkins's indomitable spirit shined through when he returned to AHRC NYC's Munson residence after battling and recovering from COVID 19

Wallie Hawkins’s indomitable spirit shined through when he returned to AHRC NYC’s Munson residence after he battled and recovered from COVID-19.

Staff continued to monitor him but by Monday, March 30, it was clear that Wallie was quite unwell and required medical attention. “We were told he should go to urgent care,” Yvonne recalled. “While at urgent care they did an x-ray that showed pneumonia in his left lung. They said to us it might be COVID.”

Medical professionals recommended immediately taking Wallie to an emergency room. Yvonne encouraged Direct Support Professional, Enrique Nazario to drive Wallie to Bronxville Hospital just north of New York City limits for fear that Wallie would not receive appropriate attention at one of the Bronx hospitals. Another Direct Support Professional from the residence, Althia Rowe, stayed with Wallie until he could be admitted, which did not occur until 1 a.m. Due to staffing issues, Yvonne stayed at the residence for more than 24 hours to ensure the safety of the other residents.

When he went in we were thinking ‘oh no, a 78-year-old man is not coming back,” Yvonne said. “That’s the vision you see and what you hear about what this virus is like. But Wallie is a fighter, and now he is victorious.”

“We Are a Family”

Thanks to the professionalism and unflinching care provided by the staff members at AHRC NYC’s Munson residence, Wallie was able to receive quality medical treatment in time, and his symptoms began to improve. Wallie was discharged from the hospital on April 8 after stabilizing for several days prior.

Wallie is back with his housemates now, having just received doctor’s clearance to join them again,” Ines said. “He’s getting stronger and eating more. He’s slowly coming back to his full self.”

Yvonne is more grateful than ever for her colleagues. “I have the biggest-hearted people around,” she beamed. “I keep telling them every day how much I appreciate them. Behind me and the ten people who live here at Munson are an amazing group of people.”

What has been bringing the staff members back day after day, despite the risks? “All that many of the residents have is us,” Yvonne said. “You come in every day and they ask us how our families are. It’s scary out there right now and I would not tell anyone that it’s not scary–I feel it in the pit of my stomach when I leave in the morning. They really need us and we have grown close to the people who we support here. We have our days and they have their days, but we are a family.”