Woman Keeps Coronavirus Out Of Nursing Home: 'I Am So Determined'

GREENPORT, NY — As the number of confirmed new coronavirus cases continues to spike across Suffolk County, with the fears rising over the number of residents impacted in retirement communities and nursing homes, there’s a facility in Greenport that has remained untouched, with not a single patient falling ill.

And, according to some, that ray of hope lies squarely on the shoulders of a nursing director who has sacrificed herself completely to fighting the battle and keeping the virus out — she hasn’t been home in more than a month as she stays close to the front lines, fiercely dedicated to her mission of keeping the most vulnerable safe.

Kelly Moteiro, nursing director of the San Simeon by the Sound Center for Nursing, Rehabilitation & Adult Day Health Care, in Greenport “has kept our facility COVID-19-free since the pandemic started,” said Linda Mysliborski, who works at San Simeon. “She has been working literally every day since. She has not been home with her family since, either. Her main goal is to keep us and our residents healthy.”

Moteiro is an “amazing woman who has gone above and beyond,” Mysliborski said. “The residents and their families and all of the employees are extremely lucky to have such an amazing director of nursing.”

Speaking with Patch, Moteiro said San Simeon closed its doors to visitors before the move to do so was mandated. She was in Florida on March 9 when Steven Smyth, San Simeon’s executive vice president and administrator, closed the doors to visitors. Moteiro, 46, who lives in Lake Ronkonkoma with her husband, Rui, and her daughter Serena, returned from Florida on March 10, headed to work at San Simeon — and never left.

“I threw a lot of scrubs into a bag, because that’s basically all I’m wearing,” she said.

Moteiro said she’s been living in a hotel close to San Simeon so she can be readily available to help her patients, most of them elderly. Her family, she said, is used to her dedication — she’s often done the same during hurricanes and snowstorms.

When asked how she has been able to keep the virus out of San Simeon, Moteiro said the staff members who have even a sore throat or cough are asked not to come to work for two weeks. Also, any new patients admitted are isolated for the same amount of time to be sure they don’t have any symptoms.

So far, she said, all of the residents in the 120-bed facility have remained symptom-free. And Moteiro knows — she personally checks every resident’s temperature daily, going from room to room to check on those under her care.

While some might say she’s a be a bit strict or “over the top,” Moteiro said there’s a very pressing reason: “We’re caring for human lives here,” she said.

The call to nursing came at a very young age. It’s all she’s ever wanted to do, she said. Moteiro has been a nurse for 23 years and has worked at San Simeon for four, and another facility in western Suffolk County before that. She’s always worked with seniors and is committed to protecting them.

“I love hearing their stories,” Moteiro said. The elderly have much to share and teach younger generations, she added.

As for the residents at San Simeon, for the most part, they are faring well, FaceTiming with their families and engaging in activities, with not too much television; some, she said, have experienced some anxiety.

The staff posts heartwarming photos of residents holding up messages, written on brightly colored signs, to families on the San Simeon website. “To my loved ones, I miss you and love you dearly,” one woman wrote.

There have been some families who have come to see loved ones, waving through glass windows to keep spirits and hope buoyed, she said.

Moteiro has been able to keep in touch with her own family through FaceTime and calls. Her daughter, she said, has taken up the mantle to help others and is currently studying speech pathology.

Although the distance isn’t easy, Moteiro feels she’s setting an example for her daughter — and for her staff. “I wouldn’t ask them for this kind of commitment if I wasn’t prepared to do the same thing myself,” she said. She leads by example — and her staff has been amazing, she said, doing double duty to make sure San Simeon runs smoothly, residents are soothed and cared for — and the coronavirus is kept far from its doors.

Although there have been concerns voiced on social media about the state reportedly sending coronavirus patients to facilities across New York, including to nursing homes such as San Simeon, Moteiro said that hasn’t happened yet and she is hopeful that it will never come to pass. But if mandated, she said the facility does have a separate building where those patients could be housed far from residents.

The coronavirus battle, Moteiro said, is far from over. And while San Simeon has so far emerged unscathed, other facilities have had their share of tragedy, with residents contracting the coronavirus.

At the Peconic Landing retirement community in Greenport, nine people have died from the coronavirus.

In Nassau County, 17 deaths have been reported among residents of the A. Holly Patterson Nursing Home in East Meadow, which is managed by Nassau University Medical Center.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Moteiro said.”And it’s no one’s fault.” All it takes, she said, is a staff member coming to work who is unknowingly positive for coronavirus, “and it can spread like wildfire. If that happened here, it would be devastating.”

That’s why, she said, she is so laser-focused on her mission of keeping the virus at bay. “I am so determined,” she said, adding that battening down the proverbial hatches and keeping visitors out of San Simeon means keeping residents and staff safe.

Moteiro has no qualms about staying put in a hotel until the crisis has passed. Her husband and daughter drove out to bring her an Easter plant Sunday, waving hello from a 10 feet away. And the community, she said, has been “amazing,” sending food and love to San Simeon.

“Every day that I wake up and San Simeon remains COVID-free is a blessing like no other,” she said.

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