It’s a Monday in August, 2022. Lidieth, a nurse who is 7 months pregnant with twin girls, gets dropped off at work by her husband. She pushes her way into an elevator filled with caffeinated health professionals and anxious parents at Boston Children’s Hospital. Ascending, she wonders where she has been assigned. If she has Clinic, she’ll spend the day vaccinating children, educating parents, monitoring allergies to the shots and making lab arrangements. If it’s Urgent Care, chances are she will have a more intense, adrenaline-driven work day.
At the nurse’s station she checks the assignments and discovers it’s the Urgent Care Unit. Within a half hour, a six-month-old baby boy arrives in severe distress, vomiting, and dehydrated. Lidieth looks for vital signs, notices the color of his lips, and sees the baby is contracting his belly muscles to breathe. Her brain surges. Assessing the baby’s life is in danger, she signals a Code Blue. A specialized team is on the scene immediately. As the baby is wheeled to the oxygen room, Lidieth rushes to keep up with her colleagues. She communicates rapidly and precisely. In a Code Blue situation every word matters, every second matters. Later that morning, Lidieth receives word that the baby has recovered. Immensely relieved, she says a quick prayer of thanks. After 9 years at Boston Children’s Hospital, she knows well the pain of losing a young life.
When Lidieth finished high school at age 15 in her native country of Colombia, she never imagined herself a nurse. Higher education was not an option for people from her neighborhood in Bogota. A year later, when her father presented an opportunity to come to the U.S., Lidieth did not hesitate. Now she could further her education and send money back home to her mom.
In the winter, northeast winds blow raw Arctic air into East Boston streets so her first need was warm clothes. Brimming with teenage excitement, she quickly adapted to her new environment, now part of a dynamic immigrant community. Before arriving, Lidieth had never sipped coffee at a café, nor eaten at a restaurant. She was shocked to find out that in Boston there was this concept of regular health “check-ups.” In Colombia, the only time you saw a doctor was when you were extremely ill.
“Start at a community college,” Lidieth heard over and over. In 2007 she entered nearby Bunker Hill Community College for classes to learn the English language. Shortly after, she became the mom of a baby girl. Around this time a family friend told her about UpTogether. Initially hesitant, she joined the Pioneras as its youngest member. The unrestricted cash transfers alleviated the intense financial stress in her life. As a young mother, she was studying and holding down two jobs. The UpTogether funds provided a safety net and were allocated for daycare expenses, tuition, public transportation and rent. Utilizing UpTogether’s matched savings account plan, Lidieth opened both a checking and savings account and transferred $100 per month into savings. Through UpTogther workshops, she learned about credit ratings and did not want to fall behind. UpTogether’s model has changed over the years after learnings and feedback from members. As a result we have moved from this model to unrestricted cash investment.
While the financial support was critical, Lidieth says that it was the goal setting in UpTogether that was most impactful. “All of us created and shared our goals,” says Lidieth. She set high expectations: continuing her education, fluency in English, getting a car, and buying a single-family home.
At the community college Lidieth continued with English language classes, found work in the financial aid office, and began her trajectory in the field of nursing. She enrolled in pre-nursing classes and then Bunker Hill offered her free tuition for a Medical Assistant Program. After receiving her certificate, she did an internship at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center where she had both clinical and administrative duties.
In 2013, Boston Children’s Hospital hired Lidieth as a full-time medical assistant where she cared for cancer patients as young as six months old. She supported kids and their parents through chemo; many of her patients lost their lives. Through these experiences, it became clear that pediatric nursing was her more than her calling: it was her passion. In 2016, the hospital offered her tuition reimbursement for nursing school. Starting with one class per semester, she graduated in 2020 and transitioned into her current role as a nurse.
Lidieth feels blessed to have a satisfying career and own a home with her husband. They now have a 16-year-old daughter and twin daughters who are six months old. She lives in the Boston suburb of Revere where a mosaic of the traditional working-class Italians, newly arrived immigrants and young professionals are figuring out how to live together. When Lidieth moved in, the Italians neighbors greeted her family with gifts. Now they keep an eye on her house, and are quick to use their snow-blowers on her driveway and sidewalk after Boston blizzards.
For Lidieth, to live is to have goals. She has accomplished all of her initial goals from when she first joined UpTogether. She recently had her Children’s Hospital status upgraded to include “Spanish Bi-Lingual Provider” after passing an exam. Her next set of goals: be the best mother for her three daughters, complete her Bachelors of Science in Nursing, obtain her Master’s Degree in Nursing, then teach Nursing classes at local colleges.