March 14th should have been just another Thursday at AHRC NYC’s Gruenstein residence, but Monique Sanabria knew something was amiss. “I got here at 6 a.m. that day,” she recalled. “We were doing everything we usually do. At one point I asked ‘Is Thomas still in the bathroom? He’s not usually in the bathroom this long.’

Thomas Kernahan, a self-advocate and a resident at Gruenstein for over a decade, was attempting to prepare for his day at Cyril Weinberg Day Center. Monique has worked with Thomas for over seven years. “I wasn’t myself,” Thomas later said. “I was getting ready to go to the program and I just wasn’t 100%. I had no color in my face.

A Scary Situation

Monique knocked on the bathroom door and asked for Thomas. “I heard him say, ‘Yes I’m ok.’ I came upstairs a couple of minutes later and he was still in the bathroom. I asked if he’s ok again and I said I need to see you.” Thomas opened the door and Monique was alarmed. “He was leaning on the door saying I’m ok. I didn’t like the way he was walking. We sat on the bed together. We were talking to him and he didn’t sound himself.

Monique called the staff nurse to check on Thomas’s vital signs, which were ok. Having worked together for seven years, however, Monique was still unconvinced of Thomas’s health. “When I walked back to the room, I looked at him said ‘No, no, no, I need to call 911. I asked a coworker to help him get dressed and we got him in an ambulance.” Her worst fears were soon realized. “We were in the hospital about five hours when Thomas had a seizure. I just knew he wasn’t regular Thomas.

It was scary, very scary,” Thomas said. “I got a very bad nosebleed. They thought I had a mini-stroke at first and then I had a seizure.”  Monique stayed at the hospital until around 4:00 p.m. until Thomas’s sister, Nancy, arrived. “We were crying together,” Monique said.

On the Road to Recovery

Thomas’s condition improved steadily over the next few days. He returned home on March 20th. “I started back at Weinberg on Monday, [April 1],” Thomas said. “I’ve been taking it easy and starting things back up slow. I am going to program on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.” He also plans to continue working with self-advocacy groups and make lobbying trips as much as possible.

He was doing something seven days a week,” Monique said. “Thomas doesn’t like to tell us when he’s not feeling well. He always wants to go to the program. Now we’ve made it clear that his health means more—the program will be there.

Reflecting on his health scare, Thomas said “I’m grateful that there were people that cared for me and got me the help I needed, especially this nice person on my left, Monique, and my own sister. When she came she almost fell apart too.

Monique is thrilled Thomas has recovered and plans to continue her exceptional work being a DSP who connects with the people she supports with a deep level of understanding. “I love the job and I love the people who live here,” she said. “I’ve worked in two houses in 13 years. I was attached to the guys at 163rd Place residence and now I’m attached here.