Aid Honored for Service During Sandy

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Home health aid Vietta Horton stayed by the side of her 92-year-old client for a week straight when the storm hit

By Helaina Hovitz

Lower East Side resident Connie Moscarella, 92, was afraid to fall asleep during Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, she was with her home health aide of nearly seven years, Vietta Horton, 61, who knew that her patient was afraid of the dark. Horton lit a candle and sat by Connie's side every night that week, and the two of them weathered the storm and its dark aftermath together.

Moscarella, who has Parkinson's and is wheelchair-bound, lives on the 11th floor of a high rise building on the Lower East Side at 455 FDR Drive, and said she was not afraid of the storm as long as Vietta was with her.

Vietta reported for work on the Sunday before the storm just like she did every morning and stayed for six days, going without electricity, water or much contact with the outside world. Three times a day, Vietta walked up and down 11 flights of stairs carrying buckets of water for drinking, bathing and flushing.

Moscarella's nephew, Joseph, lived nearby, but just had surgery the day before.

"I had to walk down 15 flights and over to my aunt's building, where I found Vietta downstairs," he said. "She told me not to worry, that she'd take care of my aunt. It's a blessing to know that your relative's in good hands."

Vietta had no contact with her own family during this time, but they were all by her side on Tuesday, May 14 at Fedcap's Annual Spring Cocktail Party at The Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse (70 Lincoln Center Plaza), where she was being honored for her work with the Amalia Betanzos Distinguished Service Award.

Rather than make an acceptance speech herself, Horton brought twenty of her colleagues on stage with her to accept the award.

The humble home health aide of 20 years insists she was just doing her duty, saying, "of course" she wouldn't have left her patient. But the heroism isn't strictly in her actions that week - it's in her daily job description. As all good home health aides know, a patient's needs must come before their own, even on Mother's Day, Christmas, and Thanksgiving.

"This kind of work is going on by the thousands every single day," said Fedcap President and CEO Christine McMahon, adding that Horton is routinely assigned more difficult cases because of her caring and good natured ways.

This was news to Horton.

"I hadn't thought about it, but I guess I do always work with difficult patients," said Horton. "I suppose they've been cases that no one else wanted to deal with. Some might say [Moscarella] is difficult, but she's not difficult to me."

Horton's younger sister, Coleta, knew Vietta would get through the storm okay. "She raised me and six other sisters when our mother died. She was only 16 then. I knew she'd be able to handle it," she said.

Fedcap tries to accommodate all seniors, whether or not they are insured.

"Once you've turned frail, there's no bell that goes off to alert your

community that you need help," said McMahon. "In the absence of some emergency situation, frail elders

are often isolated and silent. Communities who could help them are unaware

of their plight as they grow increasingly weak and vulnerable. Many elderly people have no children."

Horton's is just one among hundreds of stories of selflessness that Fedcap home health aides, and health aids citywide and nationwide, live every day.

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