By Michelle Powers
Megan DiBenedetto knows what it’s like to gasp for air. She knows what it’s like to not have the lung capacity to even sit up.
“I couldn’t even get out of bed, which is not like me at all,” Meg says, reflecting back on her latest bout with illness. She’s not a COVID-19 survivor, instead she’s a Cystic Fibrosis (CF) warrior; she has been for as long as she can remember.
“My mom found out when I was nine months old,” Megan told Currents News.
The news that their baby had CF changed the DiBenedetto family’s life. Their little girl would always have persistent lung infections that would limit her ability to breathe. Meg’s condition would flare up 27 years later, just as the coronavirus was brewing.
“I dropped like 20 pounds. My doctor was like, ‘We are just going to do a diabetes test because you have no explanation for this weight loss.’ And that test came back positive,” Meg explained.
People with diabetes and CF are considered to be at high risk to the coronavirus. They’ve been advised to “cocoon,” to literally not leave their homes. But Meg isn’t cocooning, she’s flourishing, in perhaps the most dangerous place for her.
She’s a nurse at a New York City hospital in the epicenter of the pandemic.
“It’s on my floor,” Meg said, “It’s not like I’m excluded, my whole hospital has it.”
When New York had its first case, Meg thought about taking a leave of absence, but she hasn’t. After years of her own suffering, and nurses coming to her aid in surgeries and with pick lines, she decided that her place was on the front line, just as long as her co-workers and friends watched out for her.
“They are doing everything they could,” Meg explained, “It is very difficult because I can’t help them.” But, Meg is helping her fellow nurses. Since she can’t directly treat COVID patients, she’s been doing everything else necessary to keep the hospital and her co-workers going. Even now, in the face of a pandemic, the go-getter has never let a sickness get the best of her.
“My parents raised me to do everything every other kid did,” Meg said. And till this day, it is that attitude that motivates her. The DiBenedettos put their daughter in every sport, and Meg went on to swim Division I. Her parents still support her today, banging pots and pans outside every night.
Just like in her own life, Meg has accepted the sickness, and every day she fights to overcome it. “There’s nowhere to run,” she says, “You just have to deal with it.”
The pandemic is no different, in her opinion. She says that sometimes, you just have to run head on into your biggest challenges. Since the crisis started, that’s what she’s been doing, running.
She takes long runs by her church in Dyker Heights, and she stops and always says a prayer. But the prayer isn’t for her, it’s for everyone else.