Sitting in her new apartment in Chestnut Court at St. John’s Meadows in early December 2022, Annette Connick offers, with no hesitation, her assertion that it is because of two people that she is fortunate enough to be there. The first, her daughter Mary Connick, she credits with saving her life and bringing her to Rochester. The second, Cindy Ruscio, from the St. John’s Meadows Sales Team, Annette says “was absolutely an angel.”
Annette’s whirlwind journey to this day began in May 2022 when a fateful phone call with her daughter resulted in a lifesaving trip to the hospital. According to Annette, it must have been something in my voice that Mary just knew something was wrong. Mary, who lives in Rochester, immediately got into the car following that phone call and drove to Norwich, New York, where Annette lived, to take her to the emergency department at a nearby hospital. While Annette says she was not quite feeling herself in recent months, she did not realize how sick she truly was. “My daughter saved me,” says Annette, who was told by the doctors that if she waited, she would have been dead within 24 hours due to internal blood loss.
The emergency hospital stay identified Annette’s need for immediate cancer treatment. And, without local resources for this kind of care in Norwich, Annette’s daughter Mary, a nurse, recommended that her mother come to Rochester for care. With her daughter’s home not being designed for Annette’s needs during treatment and recovery, Mary began searching for retirement communities nearby to Highland Hospital, where she would be getting treatment.
Annette values her daughter for making thoughtful decisions. So, although she believed Mary had visited three communities in preparation for her mother’s move, there was only one about which she spoke to Annette. “I believe she came here (Meadows) first and she just kept saying, ‘Mom, you’ll love it. It’s beautiful. It’s wonderful. It’s got everything–you just cannot imagine.'” “She was so excited about it,” says Annette.
At first when Mary came to speak to Cindy about her mother’s situation and the immediacy of her move, Cindy told them that there were no available apartments. According to Annette, she would have been forced to move into a hotel or try to find another community. “Cindy called back within a few hours and said, ‘I have an idea, but I am not sure you are going to like it,'” says Annette. Annette was offered a furnished apartment to stay in during the time of her treatment and until another apartment was available. Annette and Mary agreed that this was the perfect solution.
It only took three months for a desired apartment–Annette notes that she wanted to have balcony so she could garden and have a place to sit outside–to become available. And, the timing worked out well according to Annette because during the summer months she did not feel that well due to on-going radiation treatment. Most important during that time says Annette, “I needed a place to feel safe and comfortable.”
Now, with Annette feeling better and newly moved into to her own apartment, she says “I have an awakening to a new start.” According to Annette, it’s been fun to “start over” and she has even bought all new furniture and decorations for her apartment because she didn’t want to bring anything from her old life with her. “This was amazing to me. This was the first time I had everything brand new. It’s nice,” says Annette. “It was worth waiting a lifetime.”
Annette has also been spreading her wings beyond her apartment and taking advantage of the community’s amenities. According to Annette, in the beginning of her recovery, her eye site did not allow for her participation in art activities and reading, which she enjoys. However, she was able to attend the many offered programs at St. John’s Meadows from visiting musicians. “The musical performances are one better than the other. All of them. I have been enjoying them so very much,” says Annette. Recently, Annette has joined the group the Crafty Ladies, which welcomed her participation, providing her supplies for crochet, because Annette had to leave many of her crafting essentials back at her former home when she moved so quickly.
Help with various types of home maintenance is another benefit of community living that Annette appreciates. According to Annette, even before the pandemic, it was getting more challenging to find contractors to help with projects around her home like snow shoveling, mowing the lawn, repairs, etc. “Before, when I was at my house, those types of things were becoming big problems,” say Annette, who delights in the fact that you can call Building Services for even small tasks like changing a lightbulb.
Perhaps of greatest benefit to Annette in her transition to St. John’s Meadows is her own mindset about all that has happened. She says that in talking to fellow residents she has learned that everyone has a story of what has brought them to this independent living community. Some people Annette has met were “brokenhearted at first for having to give up their homes,” she says. However, according to Annette, that was not the case for her even though many of her friends and family thought it would be due to the reasons for her move.
“Sometimes it’s not a matter of eliminating something entirely. It’s a matter of rethinking it so you can have a little taste of it–a little bit of it,” says Annette, who notes she has been able to bring with her to her apartment at Chestnut Court her passion for garden by planning for a balcony herb garden and doing art through the community programs rather than in her former home art studio.
Ultimately, for Annette, St. John’s Meadows has represented a new beginning, which may have not been possible if circumstances were different. “This place has helped me get my life back again,” says Annette. “I wouldn’t have thrived as well not being here.”