Tyesha lost both of her parents by the time she was 21 years old. She found herself responsible for her three younger sisters, age 17 and 15-year-old twins. She knew she wanted to be there for her siblings, despite others suggesting she put them in foster care. “I couldn’t do that,” Tyesha says. “We are family, they are my sisters, and we belong together.”
Tyesha’s sisters moved in with her and her husband. When Tyesha became pregnant in early 2019, the entire family moved into a larger home. However, soon after that, all of them fell mysteriously ill. The family was rushed to a Bronx hospital where they were diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning and were treated with a hyperbaric chamber. Tyesha recalls the excruciating pain in her chest and ears from the treatment, along with the severe headaches and vomiting that resulted from the carbon monoxide poisoning.
The family’s landlord was required to make the appropriate repairs to their home before they returned. Once back home, Tyesha worked to normalize their lives, making sure her sisters attended school, and relying on her husband for financial support. Tyesha was also left to navigate her first pregnancy while recovering from being ill.
While receiving prenatal care at the Center for Women’s Health at Staten Island University Hospital, Tyesha shared her fears and concerns about being a first-time mother and the effects that carbon monoxide exposure may have had on her pregnancy. She was also especially scared and sad to be having her first child without her mom for support, feeling she lacked guidance on how to be a new parent. That was when the hospital staff connected Tyesha with Public Health Solutions’ (PHS’) Nurse-Family Partnership program.
PHS’ Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) is a free home-visiting program that pairs first-time moms with experienced nurses who provide valuable knowledge and support beginning early in pregnancy and until their baby reaches two years of age. With the help of a personal caring nurse professional, PHS is able to empower mothers to confidently create a better life for their children, themselves, and in Tyesha’s case, her sisters and husband.
Tyesha was nervous the first time she met with her NFP nurse. She didn’t want to be judged for not knowing everything about being a new mother. She needn’t have worried because she was met with the opposite experience. She says, “My nurse made me feel so good and competent. She would always tell me ‘you’ve got this.’ She was always bubbly.” When another nurse, Denise, took over when her original nurse left the program, Tyesha was in for a pleasant surprise – Denise had been the NFP nurse to her best friend when she was pregnant with her first baby several years prior.
In July 2019, Tyesha safely delivered a healthy boy. She speaks of his milestones proudly as he grows. Denise was instrumental not only in connecting Tyesha to additional resources in her community, but also encouraging her to return to school and complete her college degree. Tyesha found a job working as an advocate peer counselor and was beginning the process of returning to school when the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York.
The pandemic has brought new challenges for many New Yorkers, especially those who are immunocompromised. Tyesha, her sisters, and her husband still suffer from residual carbon monoxide poisoning effects and continue medical care to this day. With the onset of the pandemic, Tyesha says there’s “new fear” for her and her family because the pandemic presents new health threats.
Luckily, she still has support from Denise. PHS’ home-visiting services are still being offered, now through tele-health visits. Tyesha and Denise continue to speak regularly and talk about how she’s feeling, what she’s struggling with. “It’s nice to talk to someone that’s not your family and help you deal with the situation you’re dealing with.” She says her NFP nurses have always encouraged her to pursue her education and return to work, as well as set goals and move toward them. Now, she feels she’s moving toward them.
PHS’ home-visiting programs help pregnant and parenting families have better health outcomes, ensuring that young babies and their families are on a path to healthier lives.
Your commitment to our work helps us support Tyesha and many other moms like her to have safe pregnancies and live their healthiest lives. With your additional gift, we can expand our services to help more women in need. Make your contribution today.