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East Meadow nurse honored at Islanders game

Sutera missed much, but not an Islanders game

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Jackie Sutera remembers crying while on the phone with her daughter when the coronavirus pandemic began last year, because she feared that she wouldn’t be able to see her 6-month-old grandson, MJ, again. The next day, she said, she found out that her unit at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, where she is an assistant nurse manager, would be converted into a Covid-19 ward.

Sutera has since missed the birth of her second grandchild, and even contracted the virus herself, while caring for Covid patients at the hospital.

Her work and her sacrifices were recognized by the New York Islanders franchise, which presented her with four tickets to the Islanders-New Jersey Devils game, the first for which fans were allowed to return to Nassau Coliseum and the Islanders’ seventh straight win.

“It’s amazing,” said Sutera, a 53-year-old East Meadow native, of the Islanders’ offering tickets to 1,000 Northwell Health employees and their families. “It’s showing they really care about the community.”

She grew up going to Islanders games at the Coliseum, and worked at Borrelli’s Restaurant when she was younger, she said, where she would see fans enjoying dinner and drinks before and after the games. She also remembers the excitement around East Meadow in 1981, when the Isles celebrated their second straight Stanley Cup title with a parade.

Sutera, who now lives in Massapequa, has worked in the health care industry for 20 years. The pandemic, she said, has been the first time people have embraced the work health care professionals do. With Covid-19, that work was even more heroic, because no one knew much about the virus when the crisis began.

At the time, she said, everyone in the Northwell Health system banded together to fight the disease. Some even stayed at hotels, separate from their families, fearing they might be contagious. Then, three weeks after Sutera’s unit became a Covid ward, she started having trouble breathing, and tested positive for the virus.

Fortunately, her experience with it wasn’t as bad as that of her patients, she said. When she was able to return to work, she told them how she had felt, wanting to offer them some hope, she said.

Sutera was often the only one allowed in a room with a patient, which she said, was “as emotional as it was rewarding,” because she was often by a dying patient’s side. She was saw some of the patients she had worried about get discharged from the hospital.

“It’s been a year that none of us thought we would see,” she said. “Nobody ever expected a pandemic coming.”

Now, as more people are getting vaccinated, Sutera said, “I think the world is just ready to get back to normal,” safely.

To that end, the Islanders are requiring all fans attending a game to present proof of a negative PCR Covid test from a health care provider taken within 72 hours of the game, have their temperatures taken as they enter, and to socially distance and wear face coverings while in the arena.