Jasmyne was attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania pursuing an undergraduate degree when she decided she didn’t enjoy her major and wanted instead to become a nurse. To get started, she attended Great Lakes Institute of Technology and obtained her licensed practical nurse (LPN) license. She subsequently attained employment at UPMC Hamot in the urology clinic. However, she thirsted for a bigger role.
Jada is a native of Erie, PA, who graduated from Collegiate Academy in 2017. Always passionate about serving her community, Jada could often be found volunteering in and outside of school, including as an English Language Learner (ELL) tutor and mentor. Following high school, she attended the University of Pittsburgh where she majored in Natural Sciences on the pre-physician assistant track and minored in both Spanish and Music.
Prior to September 2021, Erie resident Thesha served as her family’s matriarch – a pillar of strength and guidance for her adult children and her grandchildren. That changed in September 2021, when the 41-year-old suffered a devastating stroke that sent her into a coma for several weeks.
During the pandemic, Rylee was hospitalized with COVID-19. Prohibited from having visitors, she felt alone and terrified. However, the kindness of a UPMC Hamot PCT, who took the time to offer equal measures of compassion and companionship, inspired Rylee to seek a career in the medical field.
Samantha “Sam” is a nurse employed through a grant written by HHF in 2021 that established the Women’s Recovery Center (WRC). The WRC is a three-county-wide program that aims to provide services to women of childbearing years who experience substance use disorder (SUD). To Sam, her job is so rewarding that “it doesn’t even feel like work.” She has the capacity to understand her clients’ struggle with substance use in an intimate way because Sam – herself – is in recovery.
Melinda was 33 weeks pregnant when she arrived at the Meadville Medical Center for a scheduled non-stress test. As she pulled into the lot to park her car, she started bleeding – every expectant mother’s worst nightmare. Meadville Medical Center quickly triaged her, identified a ruptured placenta, and transferred her to UPMC Hamot for treatment and delivery.
Twenty-four years ago, Takisa joined the UPMC Hamot team as an Environmental Services (EVS) Associate. At the time, she was fresh out of high school and had four young children. Life was challenging. “Being young and having four kids and trying to work a full-time job, it was very hard,” Takisa shares. As the holidays neared, she signed up for the Wish Tree program, which helps employees of modest means acquire Christmas presents for their children.
“It was tough,” Drevell says of his childhood growing up on the lower eastside of Erie. Now a proud father, husband, and a valued HHF staff member whose work is garnering the attention of UPMC executives and Erie community leaders alike, Drevell is what many would consider a rising young professional. But, his life wasn’t always so rosy.
At age 19, Emily was involved in a serious car accident that left her with significant injuries. During recovery, she was prescribed opioid pain medication. In an all-too-familiar story, this progressed into an opioid addiction, a struggle Emily has fought to overcome for the last 15 years.
In 2022, local teenager Grady was involved in an ATV accident and sustained serious injuries. He was rushed to UPMC Hamot, where his parents met him and the clinical team in the Emergency Room. They learned Grady had sustained a severed spinal cord, and he needed to be transferred to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (CHP) for further care.
“People ask me, ‘How did you find the cancer?’ and I tell them, ‘My husband hit me!’”
Leslie, a breast cancer patient, bursts into a joyous laugh. By “hit” she’s referring to the night in bed when her husband elbowed her in the chest accidentally. The next day, Leslie noticed a bruise forming and a lump. When the bruise dissipated over the next few days, but the lump did not, Leslie called her doctor.
After graduating high school, Lanae shared her interest in pursuing a medical career with her family. However, the cost of tuition made it impossible for her to enroll. Struggling financially, she wasn’t able to take on student loan debt or pay out-of-pocket for training.
Five years ago, Warren was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. He was a student at the time and working a part-time job that did not offer health insurance. After his cancer diagnosis, he was placed on Medicaid, which helped cover his medical bills as he progressed through treatment. At one point, he was transitioned to Medicare and placed on disability due to the severity of his condition. However, when he received a call from a medical debt collector who said he owed more than $70,000, it became clear that a clerical error was made.
Sean always knew he wanted to work in the medical field, which initially led him to pursue schooling to become a radiology technician. Part of this training included rotations through the various modalities of the field, including nuclear medicine, MRI, and X-ray. Sean’s favorite, though, was radiation therapy, where a technician administers radiation to a patient to treat their cancer.
Afghan refugee Saeed arrived in Erie in September 2022, joining the roughly 100 other families who were evacuated and resettled here in August 2021 after the collapse of the Afghan government. “No one wants to be a refugee,” Saeed says. “These families have been through a lot. A lot.” He tiptoes around the details of the horrors they witnessed and the impossible decisions they faced as they fled.