By Logan Schiciano
Paul Foxen is no stranger to facing adversity. He was born with cerebral palsy. People sometimes struggle to understand him due to his speech impediment.
At 15, he fell off his bicycle and knocked out all of his top teeth; he fell again in his 30s and popped out his bottom teeth.
But at age 66, two simultaneous scares – an injury and a battle with COVID-19 – did not knock him down.
After an accident at his group home where he lives in Garden City, L.I. required emergency spinal cord surgery in mid-April, Foxen was relocated to Waterview Hills in Purdys to rehab. At the time of his arrival, no visitors were permitted and the facility was “COVID free.”
But within a week, some residents and staff tested positive for the virus. Then, caretakers noticed Foxen had developed a cough and a test revealed he was positive as well.
The news was surprising for the family, considering Foxen was essentially isolated, like other Waterview residents, upon arrival.
“Everyone was following all the protocols, but there’s just so much unknown about the disease. We were terrified,” said Foxen’s sister, Katy Faivre. “We didn’t know if the injury or the illness would be worse for him.”
Waterview Hills is one of many care centers that have been impacted by COVID-19. More than 250 people in Westchester nursing home facilities have died from coronavirus, according to data from the New York State Department of Health.
Following his diagnosis, Foxen was sent to the emergency room at Northern Westchester Hospital. Once there, he was treated with antibiotics and hydroxychloroquine, the drug touted by President Donald Trump despite the absence of widespread evidence of being effective for helping COVID-19 patients. However, Faivre said her brother’s symptoms never worsened after receiving it.
Regardless of the treatments, the medication wasn’t the only assistance Foxen had along the way. Faivre, a 23-year Somers School District teacher who has worked with special education students, said she and her family visited Paul twice a day through the window of his first-floor room for three months.
“At first it was so stressful for him. The window was the only contact we had week after week.” Faivre said. “We did all sorts of things at the window – observed therapy sessions, played cards, memory match games, singalongs. I even had him do wheelchair challenges to keep him busy.”
She believes the visits contributed to Paul’s recovery.
“For a while, I didn’t think he thought much of us visiting, honestly, because we came so regularly, but one day I was a little late from work and he said, ‘Where were you?’ He really needed us,” she said.
Even through isolation, occasional frustrations and the coronavirus, Foxen continued to receive therapy for the injury, which compromised his ability to walk and use his arms. His family is appreciative of the staff at Waterview Hills who cared for him and is proud of how he fought through the challenges.
Though Foxen never once had a fever and had minimal symptoms, according to Faivre, it took more than 10 weeks until he finally shook the virus and tested negative on two consecutive occasions. In mid-July, he was discharged from Waterview Hills and is now continuing his therapies at the home of another sister, Judy Courtney, back in Garden City.
Faivre said their family will keep working with Foxen until he is physically able to return to his residence.
“He has a great spirit; he never gave up. He worked really hard and he continues to work really hard,” Faivre said.