For Registered Nurse Evelyn Rivera, helping people isn’t just her career. It’s her life. She loves providing care to people and making a difference. She has worked in home health care for more than a decade, providing her services in Puerto Rico and Massachusetts before moving to Florida. Now, she’s caring for A.R. “It’s beautiful really,” she explains, “When you see the person that needs help every day and can provide assistance to them.”
A.R. is two-years-old and has already battled — and beaten — cancer. He was just a year old when his family discovered a malignant tumor in the back of his head. But, after almost a year of treatments, the tumor is gone, and he is getting stronger every day. Despite his growing progress, A.R. still requires various medications, a tracheotomy tube, and a ventilator and oxygen machine at night. But, he’s not letting these things slow him down.
“He never loses energy. He just wants to play all day. He loves Cocomelon. His mom will put it on. He’s obsessed. He also loves the different sounds of animals — like lions, ducks, and horses.” Evelyn reflects on A.R.’s improvements. “He uses a walker at times because occasionally he walks too fast. But other times, we go outside, and he’ll walk perfectly. He is very intelligent too. When it’s time for bed, I say, A.R., it’s sleepy time, and he goes with me to his room. I sit next to him in the chair and read him a book and give him a toy.”
A.R.’s strength and energy weren’t the case all too long ago. He’s spent the good part of the past year in the hospital — during a pandemic nonetheless. It added stress and challenges to an already overwhelming situation. “It’s been really hard on his mom,” Evelyn recalls. “A.R. has a little brother too, who is 8-months-old.”
With two children in the home, A.R.’s mom appreciates all the help she can get. Between taking care of her youngest son and caring for the specific needs of A.R., she often feels overwhelmed. But, some of the stress has been relieved by Evelyn visiting three days a week.
“It’s inspiring to see patients like A.R.,” Evelyn explains. “When I first started working with him four months ago, he needed to have 11 medicines. Today, he only needs four!” Medicine isn’t the only place where A.R. has made strides. He’s starting to breathe on his own — which is a sign that he is improving and getting stronger. “I tell him to take a breath,” Evelyn explains excitedly, “and the monitor reads 100%. In the future, he may not need the oxygen machine anymore.”
During her time with A.R. and his family, Evelyn has been able to spend dedicated time with him and develop a relationship that isn’t possible in some healthcare settings. She’s excited to see him and A.R. is equally excited to see her. They’ve become best friends. And, their bond has only become stronger as he recovers and grows up.
Working at Care Options for Kids has given Evelyn the opportunity to really get to know her patients and their families. Despite basing her career in home health care, she describes her role with Care Options for Kids differently. “Care Options for Kids is special because everyone in the company is supportive. They call and ask me if everything is ok. When I’m not with A.R.’s mom, and he needs something, Care Options for Kids calls me and notifies me.”
Support isn’t the only benefit Evelyn experiences. “It’s very different from when I first started working. In this case, especially with A.R., you get more time with the patient. You can dedicate more time. I can help mom with A.R. and whatever else she needs. It’s much better now.”