BOSTON — As we celebrate nurses this week and moms this weekend, a single mom in Wayland is a hero both at work and at home.
Jackie Gryska, 35, is a cardiac nurse at Newton Wellesley Hospital.
These days, the majority of her patients have COVID-19.
Some of her patients, though, have no idea that behind her bright smile, there is pain.
Jackie only returned to work a few weeks before the pandemic hit.
She had taken a few months off to care for her three young children -- all under the age of 7-- after her husband, Charlie, a Waltham police officer, passed away in December from a rare brain tumor that’s usually seen in children.
“When we found out it was more of a pediatric tumor, Charlie said to me ‘Jackie if i could take this away from one child, and for them not to have to deal with this, and I understand what’s happening to me. I can’t imagine what it’s like for a child,’” explained Jackie.
Charlie fought cancer for 10 months before passing away at the age of just 33.
On top of that -- Jackie's father was battling Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma at the same time.
Jackie's father is now in remission, watching the kids while Jackie’s at work.
And while Jacie knows it’s a risk coming home every night to her immunocompromised dad and three children, Jackie says she’s being careful. But she says being apart is not an option.
“I think it’s hard for [my kids]. [First they lost their dad] and all the sudden, mom’s gone too,” she said. “I do my best to stay healthy right now. [But I made the choice not to self-quarantine] because I was just so concerned about being the only parent now,” she told Boston 25 News.
So what is it like for Jackie to be caring for patients who are very sick, while she's still in the beginning stages of the grieving process herself?
"Taking care of these people during this time is really, really difficult [and then to have to deal] with all of the emotions that I've been through is an added component that's sometimes overwhelming. And i do come home many times just like my colleagues in tears," she said.
Jackie says her strength, though, comes from "my kids, first, from Charlie looking over us, and my extended family."
And her strength also comes from her Newton Wellesley co-workers.
Just this week, they surprised her with angel pins with grey ribbons for Brain Cancer Awareness Month, that they will wear in memory of Charlie.
Jackie is asking people interested in helping her to instead donate to the “National Brain Tumor Society” which is based locally in Newton and helps fund research.
“I just don’t want any young family, any spouse to have to go through this ever, ever again,” said Jackie.
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