MaryGrace Colobong

After a trying year—both physically and emotionally—MaryGrace Colobong reflects on the peace of mind her 1199SEIU health benefits afforded her.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, MaryGrace Colobong had no idea how much her job as a Nursing Assistant at Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation—as well as life for the residents there—was about to change. After becoming one of the first staff members to be infected with the virus, in March 2020, she kept a video diary of her experience. “I wanted to help other people know what it was like,” she explained. She detailed her symptoms, which included chills, difficulty breathing and a loss of smell and taste that lasted for over two months. As difficult as her recovery was, she is grateful she never had to worry about getting the care she needed, thanks to her 1199SEIU health benefits.

Once MaryGrace did recover, she returned to work, which, she said, resembled “a war zone,” with staff having to wear “so much personal protective equipment, we looked like soldiers.” Sadly, she also lost seven residents who she felt were like members of her own family. Despite the risks, the pandemic reminded MaryGrace why she had chosen a career in the healthcare industry. “I feel like I’m making a difference in people’s lives,” she explained. With the facility in lockdown, she helped residents connect with their family members via video chat, and she was thrilled when family visits resumed in April 2021.

My benefits are like a well-rounded support system, covering so many things that you can’t even predict you’ll need. That makes me feel very secure, knowing I have their support—especially in times like these!

MaryGrace Colobong

Nursing Assistant, Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation

Now fully vaccinated, MaryGrace hopes others will follow her lead. “People know how bad having COVID-19 was for me,” she said, “so if they want to avoid what I went through, they may decide to get the shot, too.”

Her bout with COVID-19 wasn’t the first time MaryGrace faced serious illness. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, she relied on her 1199SEIU health coverage to receive her lifesaving treatment, and continues to get screened every six months. “I’m very lucky,” she said. “I don’t know how I could have paid for everything without my benefits.”

As she looks forward to an eventual return to normalcy after the pandemic, MaryGrace reflects on how thankful she is for her Fund benefits. “They really are a must, especially in my field, where you can get sick at any time,” she said. “My benefits are like a well-rounded support system, covering so many things that you can’t even predict you’ll need. That makes me feel very secure, knowing I have their support—especially in times like these!”

What Do Your Benefits Mean to You?

You count on your health benefits to support you in your efforts to stay healthy, whether it’s by getting regular checkups, keeping a chronic condition under control or just improving your lifestyle in general. But has there ever been a time when your health coverage literally saved your life or the life of a loved one? If so, we’d like to hear from you. To share your story with your fellow members in an upcoming issue of For Your Benefit, please contact the Funds at [email protected].

For Your Benefit Magazine

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