By BILL FOLEY
A Brewerton Speedway Four-Cylinder driver from a four generation racing family is currently in the trenches protecting the elderly in Central New York as the fight against the Coronavirus continues.
Twenty-three-year-old Stephanie Seeley has been around the race track for years, but she is formulating her future in the medical field.
She said, “I am currently a Home Health Aide and Certified Nursing Assistant so I care for the elderly. I graduated high school in 2014 and in my last two years I took public safety in BOCES. I was set on joining the criminal justice field. I wanted to help people. My grandpa, who is my idol that I’ve always looked up to, is an LPN and I got to work in the healthcare field in 2016 as a Home Health Aide and some of the residents I worked with I just fell in love with. The relationships grew with them. It was like they were another family. I always treated them like they were my own and I just got so attached to them. And it really sucks when you lose one of your residents because there is such a strong bond. I think that is the only downfall of the job about caring for the elderly. I love hearing their stories about the olden days and how different it used to be back then compared to now.”
However, her job has changed dramatically in the past few weeks as she explained, “Both of my jobs are very hectic. As soon as you walk through the doors you are bombarded with questions like ‘do you have a cough’ , ‘have you been in contact with anyone with COVID-19?’ We have our temps taken and wash our hands every single time we walk through the doors. It’s hard to breathe with these masks.”
Continuing she noted, “It’s affected my job a lot. These elderly people in the nursing home are so confused. It’s sad. We have to wear masks all day long to protect them. They can’t have any family whatsoever to come and visit them. They are getting depressed and so confused because some don’t understand that because of this virus no visitors are allowed.
“It’s a scary thing because they are quarantined, but they still have to go to doctors appointments and stuff. We are leaving also to go home and we could bring it in to them and the thought of one of them catching the virus at the doctors is a scary thought. I couldn’t imagine someone getting it and spreading it through the building and me bringing it home to my family. I’ve been working crazy hours between the two jobs and about 102 hours a week.”
The “normal day” has changed as Stephanie explained, “Well, when I come in I have a list of people to care for. I get them washed, showed and shaved, we go to the dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner and then change them throughout the day, but because of this coronavirus and having to be six feet apart it’s pretty hard to do that in a nursing home. So now they are pretty much quarantined in their room and have to eat all three meals there. We have to go and pick up their trays and document how much they each have. We are literally running around like chickens with our heads cut off. We are wearing masks and at one job we are wearing homemade or cloth masks because of the shortage with masks. They wash them every single day for us. My other job has masks for us to wear.”
She is preparing to become a licensed practical nurse and said, “I am still working with LPN school, but it’s rough because we aren’t in a classroom learning. We do a group thing on zoom and get our ‘classroom time’ that way. Then on Wednesday and Friday we have ‘Clinical’ and those are through virtual video where you are given a patient with symptoms and you have to pick and choose what you would do for that patient, including meds. It’s very difficult. We can’t even do projects for class because it was based off our clinical at the hospital, but we can’t even go there to pass meds. Clinicals are where you get the ‘hands on’ and we can’t do that either.”
Stephanie uses racing as an escape, but her love for the sport goes way back.
Looking at the racing roots she explained, “Sam Carista is my great grandfather. My father is Jerry Curcie Jr., and my grandfather was Jerry Curcie Sr., who was a racer for years, but unfortunately passed away after battling cancer. My great uncle Bill Carista lost his battle with cancer in 2019 and my brother is Dylan Curcie while my Uncle Sam Carista raced. There were all four generations on the track until my great grandpa had some medical issues and had to quit racing.”
Continuing she reflected on her racing as she said, “I have been racing since I was nine-years-old and I’m going to be 24 in July. I’ve won multiple track championships when I raced karts at West Amboy, Moose Mountain, Frozen Ocean, Savannah, Oswego Kart Way and many more. It all started when my Grandpa Jerry told me ‘I have something in the garage for you.’ I went out and there was a 1996 gokart he had gotten from his cousin. We started going to races. I started in a restricted blue plate flat head class and then kept going up. Racing has always been in our blood and family. In 2012 my dad and grandpa started a Ford Escort for me, but it was really bad. I remember my first race my Uncle Sam let me race his white Honda and on the last lap the tie rod end snapped and sent me into the front stretch wall.”
It didn’t end there as Stephanie noted, “Jerry Locke donated his figure eight car and he had a Ford Focus. It wasn’t about winning at all honestly. I had more fun than anything racing side by side with my brother, uncle and dad. In 2017 I started racing my grand grandpas Ford Mustang because he wasn’t able to. I went on two vacations that year and when I got back from Italy I got sick and had mono so it took me out for the rest of the season. If I had gotten in an accident I could have ruptured my spleen and it could have killed me. Since then racing has been on and off.”
But that doesn’t mean she is done.
Currently, she is involved with something much more important than racing in helping protect the elderly.
She is receiving support in this tiring and frenzied effort.
Seeley said, “I gotta say there is one person who regularly checks up on me and that is my boyfriend. He has been a trooper through this. He knows I work long hours and he doesn’t as he was off a few times due to his work, but had to go back when it snowed as he works for the town. He’s been having dinner ready for me, helping me keep up with housework and laundry. It’s difficult to work in health care honestly through this because we don’t know what we’re bringing home to our family. I literally have to go home and disinfect everything everyday, but it’s worth it.”