Thanks to everyone who read and supported the Conn. Health I-Team. Publication of new content stopped as of Dec. 31, 2022. Since 2010 C-HIT has published in-depth public service journalism on a range of topics, including systemic problems within the health care system, health disparities in chronic illnesses, inequities in health care access, barriers to care in under-served communities, including LGBTQ+. C-HIT put a spotlight on the financial relationships between drug and device companies and licensed practitioners, the plight of lead-poisoned children, consistently covered women’s health and veterans’ health, and launched a new feature, Generation Health, aimed at Gen Z and Millennials. To those who allowed us to tell their stories, I’m thankful. Your personal stories enriched ours.
A patch of dirt in the northwest corner of their back yard, bounded by a chain link fence, a stone wall and a garage that houses feral cats, has become a happy place for Gladis Castro, 57, and her daughter Carla, 27. The Danbury mother and daughter have found purpose and meaning, and built a strong relationship, in a simple garden that has connected them with nature, given them food and provided a diversion from the COVID-19 pandemic. Just being outdoors has become increasingly important to them in caring for their long-term respiratory effects from the virus. Inhaling the early-morning air while working in her garden often reminds Gladis Castro of Santa Isabel, her village in the Andes mountains of Ecuador. After a morning summer walk the two made smoothies with freshly picked red raspberries from their garden.
As soon as he heard that President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Act would include more than $4 billion to replace lead water pipes in the country, Joseph Lanzafame, New London’s public utilities director, knew two things:
First, no matter how much money Washington spent on the undertaking, it wouldn’t be enough. And second, Lanzafame knew he wanted New London to be first on the state’s priority list for funding. “If we get out ahead of it,” he said, “we’re more likely to get additional subsidies … and we’re going to help set the standard for the state.”
Over the past two years, New London has been aggressively inventorying its pipes, the first step in the replacement process. Lanzafame has pored over historical records, hired engineers to do predictive modeling, and arranged for exploratory “test pits” to be drilled throughout the city to determine how many of its public water lines are made of lead.
The 911 call came in from a parent whose son was threatening to kill himself. Typically, a police officer will race to a call like this, assess and stabilize the situation, and most likely request an ambulance to take the child away, leaving the family to pick up the pieces. In Milford earlier this year, that didn’t happen. Instead, the officer first summoned his colleague Caitlyn Cimmino, a licensed clinical social worker employed by the police department, and the pair dashed off together. After the officer entered the home and ensured that the situation was safe, he invited Cimmino in to take over from there.
After being raped multiple times in the military, Linda Davidson feels so defeated that she has tried to take her own life. “Every day, I look in the mirror, and I hate what I see,” said the Air Force veteran. “I’ve been destroyed by serving my country and am tired of fighting an endless battle,” said Davidson, who suffers from depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, nightmares, and suicidal ideation. None of her attackers were charged or punished, she said. She served from 1988 to 1995.
When Herb Virgo spends time on the trails in Hartford’s Keney Park, he feels different. There’s a “heightened sense of wellbeing, a feeling of connectedness,” he said of spending time outside at the nearly 693-acre park in Hartford’s North End. “There are portions of the park that you can visit that completely make you feel like you’re in another place, in another world. Not only in another city, but in a completely different ecosystem.” Virgo is the founder and executive director of Keney Park Sustainability Project and is dedicated to helping others have similar experiences through the project’s Urban Ecology Wellness Center at Keney Park initiative.
When Laura Garcia was pregnant with her third child, a boy she named Matias, she had symptoms that made her uneasy. Her nails turned purple, her feet were swollen and she was vomiting. Undocumented and uninsured, she sought care in a community clinic. “They told me it’s normal,” said Garcia of Norwalk. But one day in her 39th week of pregnancy, as she returned home from work, she could no longer feel the baby moving.
Most Connecticut residents who carry a trait for sickle cell disease don’t know it, resulting in thousands of people unwittingly risking having a child born with the debilitating illness, according to sickle cell disease specialists. The reasons for this vary: there’s a lack of knowledge about results of newborn testing for the trait, parents don’t always convey test results to their children, gaps in state record keeping, and state records that identify people with the disease or trait only go back to 2012. Also, doctors typically only test for the trait when a patient requests it. And people often don’t know they can have the trait even when sickle cell disease isn’t in their family. Dr. Biree Andemariam, director of the New England Sickle Cell Institute at UConn Health, said physicians should include trait testing in routine exams. “It should be standard care,” she said.
Kamyle Dunn used to sleep with her hand resting on her mother’s chest so she could feel it expand and contract and know that her mom hadn’t stopped breathing during the night. Dunn’s mother, Maria Cotto, has long had severe asthma. Dunn inherited the condition, though she has mostly grown out of it as an adult. Now, Dunn’s 12-year-old son also has severe asthma. “People kind of shrug it off as not that big of a deal,” said Dunn, who lives with her family in East Harford. “But I see what it’s done to my mother, and I see what it’s doing to my son, and what it has done to me.”
In Connecticut, 10.6% of children and 10.5% of adults have asthma, according to state data from 2019. According to DataHaven’s 2021 Community Wellbeing survey, 12% of adults have asthma.
Leslie Argueta is a 21-year-old first-generation college student at Goodwin University who plans to work with children and families in need. It’s a profession for which her own life experience has prepared her. When Argueta was 3, she emigrated from El Salvador with her family, settling in East Hartford. In Argueta’s first year of college, a car accident left her mother unable to work for a year, forcing the young college student to divide her time between her studies and hospital visits. “Me and my brother had to provide a little bit more for our family,” Argueta said.