In 2018, Kim Bartley moved to her parent’s Hollywood apartment to aid her father who suffered from prostate cancer and respiratory problems. Soon, her stay slowly became permanent and she met quite a few residents of the Summit Tower Condos.
Dr. Theodore Strehan, 84, lost his battle to cancer in January 2019, leaving Bartley’s mother, Eva Strehan, 85, at a loss.
“She’s never been alone in her entire life, and once my father passed away she was lost,” said Bartley, 52. “I stayed so my mother would not be alone.”
The fits-and-starts COVID vaccine rollout left many of the residents of the condos at 1201 S Ocean Dr. feeling adrift and alone. Though the community is not age-restricted, many are over the age of 65. Bartley and her family took it upon themselves to help their neighbors, scouring websites and helping as many as possible.
“Most of the problems I can solve, but [getting an appointment] I couldn’t. I couldn’t do it,” said Ana Carmen Silveira, an 83-year-old neighbor. “The thing is that if you are not good with computers, there is no way you can get appointments. You must be very persistent and knowledgeable.”
Bartley got up as early as 6 a.m. for an entire week looking for vaccine-booking opportunities. Her niece, Amy Green, eventually booked the shot and five days later, Strehan received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Downtown Medical Center, 111 NW First St., on Jan. 6.
Word spread between Strehan, friends, and neighbors, and they began calling for Bartley’s help.
“People down the hall. That is how it started,” said Bartley. “Elders don’t know how to use the computer.”
She volunteered her time going around the building offering her assistance in her spare time.
Bartley, who owns a business that cleans homes and offices, checked for appointments daily for three weeks between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.
“She knows that I’ve been trying to get an appointment for the virus vaccine, and was very happy to help me,” said Leah-Dee Kahn, 96. “It wasn’t that I asked her, she volunteered.”
Kahn received the Pfizer vaccine on Jan. 14 at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Bartley booked 12 appointments during that period. She made them at various locations in Broward and Miami-Dade. She then drove the Summit residents to each meeting, spending 16 hours on the road.
“There is always an angel,” said Silveira.
In January, Silveira lost her brother Luis Perez Vega, 86, to COVID-19 and feared for her life and her husband. Silvio Silveira, 87, had an aortic replacement placing him at high risk to experience COVID-19 symptoms. Silveira and her husband have received both Pfizer vaccines.
“If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t know where I would be,” she said.
Bartley said that the current approach to vaccination appointment setting does not work and to make that better, older people need patience and use their voice to find an outlet to tell of such issues, or else their problems and complaints will get ignored.
“The desperation motivated me, ” said Bartley. “I am very driven and would take it to the end.”
Adds her mother Strehan: “I am kind of proud, I must say. I really am. I think since we all are in danger, people are more inclined to help somebody else. Because it could be you who could need help one day.”