A pre-pandemic memory that freshens the air of Camillus consciousness is that of The Hug—freely given by CEO Hilda Fernandez and others from our team to the homeless we serve. These happened spontaneously as the best of hugs should. There were no cameras around. Only this writer’s eyes.
Serving Camillus remotely since March to protect the health of our vulnerable homeless, onsite staff, and interconnected community, what spontaneously prompts this remembrance of spiritual uplift is my phone interview with Nurse Santhia Succes about her service to the people we serve.
If some of our senses are heightened when others are relieved, then perhaps it is only natural that without being able to “see” Nurse Santhia in the conventional sense, her voice takes on a momentous role in the few minutes we have to talk during her brief work break.
Just as Camillus House did not track the hugs, handshakes, and smiles unobscured by masks powering our community before Covid-19’s arrival, the sophisticated tracking technology we dutifully incorporate daily in earning recognition from Charity Navigator and ImpactMatters for top service delivery does not quantify the reach of a nurse’s caring disposition that her voice is uniquely qualified to convey.
But it is indeed as palpable as poetry. Nurse Santhia’s service as a nurse spans well over two full decades. Perhaps that experience underscores her tender patience, careful listening, and loving tonality for which cell phone towers graciously do their small part to facilitate entry into my heart that morning.
“I’m gooooood (eyes outstretched in relishing mid-smile), thank you (sweet and subtle pause), how are you (embodying the question with the interest we all deserve),” Nurse Santhia responds to our call’s start.
While considering her impressions she affirms with acceptance the time it takes to process and figure out the next question with a “mm-hmmm” whose second-syllable emphasis somehow makes me ok.
Ms. Succes describes the time it took for Camillus residents to acclimate to masks as sartorial necessity and confirms that through diligent follow-through, “I think by now everybody gets it and is getting used to it.”
Her diligence in ensuring coronavirus-safety compliance by leading socially-distanced, small-group lectures with residents incorporating active learning and workshop methodologies— “it’s a daily conversation,” she says and later repeats—parallels the vibrant vigilance she recounts in preventing relapses of residents with mental differencesAdministration and oversight of these health education seminars is only part of Nurse Santhia’s stewardship of Camillus House’s Medication Management & Wellness program—she also follows up individually with residents in need and even leads neighborhood walks with clients as conditions (rain, corona, etc.) permit.
“It’s very long-term support that they need, some of them,” she notes. “It makes you feel good about their progress when you see them doing well, and that’s why I encourage them, I say, ‘No matter how well you’re doing, [sic] but don’t assume because you’re doing well that you can put down your medication and because that, with everything else, following the program, it’s a package, it’s a package…follow your program, do everything you have to do, follow your schedule, and (pronounced in a timbre best described as—if equal signs could talk, here’s how they sound at the apex of positive reinforcement’s potentiality) medication is part of that…’” she continues in highlighting the holistic approach to care and “discipline in their lives” that the case managers she cites are instrumental in completing through programs and activities and even providing the emotional support to encourage the residents who can to get up and go to work
Nurse Santhia is just one of the countless team members that care deeply for Camillus and the clients served. Thanks to the profound patronage of Allegany Franciscan Ministries, she is able to serve and give of God’s grace as she is meant to do.
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