By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Hudson – Rosalind Ngugi loaded ornate decorative fabric into a plastic bag.
It was beautiful cloth that Ngugi brought back with her after an annual trip to Kenya. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Ngugi said she thought one thing when seeing that cloth while gathering loose elastic to donate to an Upton woman, Marianne Carnahan, who would use the items to make face masks for local first responders and medical personnel.
“It was time to give it up,” Ngugi said of that cloth.
Ngugi says she has a helping nature. It’s what has driven her to continually give, in ways big and small, even as the current crisis has hit almost every facet of her life.
Until recently, she worked as a personal care assistant for local senior citizens. The pandemic took that job away, though, when she felt forced to quit over fears she was bringing COVID-19 to her clients. Her agency did not provide her any protective equipment.
While at home taking care of her two children, Ngugi got a case of “frozen shoulder,” a condition that affects your shoulder joint, and can cause pain and stiffness. In extreme pain, she went to an emergency room, got an x-ray and was referred to a specialist who promptly said he could not help her. Out of work, she no longer had health insurance to pay for the cortisol injection he recommended.
“Try Tylenol,” he said, according to Ngugi.
Ngugi’s husband, meanwhile, has been working 16 hour shifts every day for weeks now, as a nurse in a local hospital. Her daughter recently turned six. The family had planned a “big” birthday party but had to cancel it all.
“We stayed home and had cake,” she said.
In her extended family, Ngugi’s father-in-law is a cardiologist in France. He’s been coughing recently, sparking fears he’s been wrapped up in the spiraling coronavirus crisis in his country. But he’s been unable to get tested.
Under so much emotional weight, the past few weeks have been hard, Ngugi admits.
“I’m starting to feel numb,” she said.
But she’s hoping to spread a message of appreciation for nurses like her husband, many of whom are finding themselves re-using masks because there is such an extreme shortage.
She also wants those stuck at home to go even further, hoping they’ll make their own sacrifices in these unprecedented circumstances.
“Everybody needs to do what they can do,” she said. “If you have a voice, speak up. If you have something to donate, give it away. If you can’t do anything else, at least stay home. Everybody has something to contribute.”
The world shakes around her. But Ngugi thinks it will emerge a stronger society on the other side of the coronavirus than it was going into this crisis. That will happen, she says, with small acts of service.
“We dwell on little things,” she said. “We worry about little things. And we fight about little things. Now we’re here. I think we’re doing to come out of this stronger. We have to.”
*Note: The Community Advocate recently helped facilitate Ngugi’s fabric and elastic donation, connecting her with an Upton woman who is making masks for first responders and medical personnel.