Gisella Iozzo, 29, stands in her father’s tidy kitchen chopping onions.
“You’re in charge now,” she tells her dad, Bruno. “You tell me what to do.”
Lately Gisella has spent a lot of time telling Bruno, 73, what to do. But today, she’s asked Bruno to teach her how to make his meatballs.
“He has a special recipe and it’s not anything that I can compare to,” says Gisella.
Bruno’s cane is nearby, propped up at the counter in case he gets tired. This time last year he didn’t need it. He was still working as a heavy machinery operator, he kept up an active social life, he could drive.
Then in March, Bruno Iozzo caught COVID-19.
Hospitalized for five months
Bruno didn’t tell his family at first, but stayed in his apartment alone, getting sicker and sicker.
Gisella had tried to reach Bruno by phone, but hadn’t spoken to him for a couple of weeks. When she finally did get a hold of her father and heard how sick he was, she went to his home immediately.
“I called 911 right away,” says Gisella, who was shocked by how ill her father had become.
Bruno was rushed to hospital. He spent the next five months in hospitals battling the virus, including 104 days on a ventilator.
“Everyone thinks you get COVID, you recover, you’re good, it’s back to normal,” says Gisella. “But in this case, it’s not.”
She says Bruno has aged a decade, lost about 50 pounds and a lot of strength.
New role, big adjustment
When he was released from hospital, Gisella moved in with her father to become his full time caregiver. It’s been a big adjustment for both of them.
Because he spent so much time in the hospital, much of it unconscious, pandemic rules are new to Bruno.
“I have to remind him we can’t go out to the mall for a walk,” says Gisella. “We can’t be too close to people. We always wear a mask.”
She also has to make sure her dad follows doctors orders, to eat and drink enough and do his exercises, so he can regain some strength. She worries about his health a lot.
“We’ve seen so much progress, and I just don’t want to let anyone down because it’s me taking care of him now,” says Gisella. “I know he misses a lot of his independence.”
Beyond the role reversal, becoming her father’s caregiver has been a challenge because Gisella says they’ve never spent this much time together before. Gisella had been living with her mom and step-father before moving in to care for Bruno.
“Growing up for me, I felt like he was more of an absent father,” says Gisella. “He was always working … six days a week…I’m thankful to be with him now because I feel like I can, not necessarily make up for lost time, because what happens in the past is in the past, but now I can focus on growing that bond.”
As grateful as she is for this time with her dad, Gisella that since stepping into this role she’s been hesitant to talk about her fears and how overwhelming it has all been. No one in her social circle has gone through something like this before, so she wasn’t sure who she could turn to for guidance.
Now or Never put a call out on our Facebook page to people who have been caregivers for loved ones, asking for messages of advice and encouragement for Gisella.
“I’m so thankful,” says Gisella. “It means so much to me to hear those kind words and hear all that advice, to know that I’m not alone, to know people care.”
Back in the kitchen, she watches her dad make a few meatballs before asking if she can roll one. Bruno checks out her technique.
“Oh. you do it better than me,” he says. “Now I’m not teaching you, you’re teaching me.”