A Tribute From Theresa Santoro To Claire Kirby…Town and RVNAhealth Treasure!

I’d like to express my own personal gratitude for a former RVNAhealth nurse, Claire Kirby. Claire passed away peacefully last week on our hospice services.

A favorite Claire Kirby photo, gracing the hallways of RVNAhealth in celebration of our 100th anniversary

Claire Kirby was employed at RVNAhealth for at least three decades. She did it all — from home health to community health and wellness. She was beloved by the agency and the entire community. She was that nurse who several referral sources, family members and patients themselves asked for… “By any chance, can we get Claire as our nurse?” Claire was an inspiration to all of us.

An old-school nurse who was direct yet caring. She had high expectations, yet was very understanding of human frailties. She lived across the street from me and for years, I’d watch her shovel her own snow, rake her own leaves, and do her own home repairs. She was in her 70’s and 80’s at the time! It was exhausting just watching her. I wanted to be Claire Kirby when I grew up.

Claire was so well known that when she retired, the Town of Ridgefield threw her a town-wide retirement party at The Community Center. It was a packed event.

During the time of her retirement (2001) we were working out of 90 East Ridge. It was a time when nurses had to come to the office every day to collect paper charts, check in with their supervisor and document their notes. We all had personal cubbies to call our own and to work from.

For weeks after Claire’s retirement, we’d walk past her empty cubbie and feel such a loss. It was hallowed ground! I was a relatively new full time RN case manager and, after some time, was assigned to Claire’s cubbie. It felt like I was getting Derek Jeter’s locker! I was thrilled and felt honored. From the day I took her seat, I aspired to be like her: humble, strong, and compassionate.

Claire volunteering at her final RVNAhealth blood pressure clinic — with Ridgefield First Selectman, Rudy Marconi

While she retired in 2001, Claire was never one to sit still. She continued to volunteer her time at our health fairs and blood pressure clinics until 2014.

Claire, thank you for all you did for RVNAhealth and this community. We are forever grateful. And we are honored to have provided our full spectrum of care back to you over the past decade.

To the members of our home health, rehabilitation, home care, and hospice teams who cared for Claire: thank you for the wonderful care you provided this special lady at the end of her life. I know that her family is extremely appreciative.

Theresa Santoro, MSN, RN, CHCA
RVNAhealth President & CEO

RVNAhealth Nurse Family Partnership: Ruth’s Story

Friends, peers on the high school leadership initiative where she served as President, and her mother all assumed the baggy clothes Ruth-Ann Bucknor suddenly preferred were just fashion choices. They were actually how she hid her unplanned pregnancy for nearly six months. Born in Jamaica, Ruth-Ann was raised in Connecticut by a single mother devout to her cultural religious foundation who had high expectations and standards for herself and her daughter. Isolated and disappointed in herself, Ruth-Ann feared the news of her unplanned pregnancy would devastate her mother.

An exceptional student and curious young woman by nature, Ruth-Ann researched available resources for young mothers, made a list of questions, and a pre-natal doctor’s appointment. She felt judged and shamed during the visit because of incorrect assumptions made about her education, circumstances, and aspirations and fled the visit with her list of questions unanswered. On the way out, a flyer advertising support for first-time mothers caught her eye; she grabbed one and called the 800 number desperate for support better than what she had just received.

“It’s a joy watching her grow as a mom and young woman.”

A representative at Nurse Family Partnership, a national program that pairs first-time mothers with a dedicated nurse during pregnancy and the first two years of the child’s life, referred Ruth-Ann to RVNAhealth, the local program partner. Melissa Smith, RN, BSN, and RVNAhealth Nurse Supervisor who has been working with Ruth-Ann since that initial phone call considers her “smart, curious, and resourceful.”

“She comes with questions, listens intently to the answers, and then researches things further. She is wise beyond her years and is an exceptional human being. It’s a joy watching her grow as a mom and young woman.” Over time, the two developed a level of trust that likely saved Ruth-Ann’s life…more than once.

Just before Mother’s Day 2020, Ruth-Ann revealed her secret to her mother who works as a live-in Certified Nursing Assistant, alternating weeks between her patient and home. “She was disappointed but acted better than I expected. She took a few hours to process the news and then offered me her unconditional support,” Ruth-Ann recalled. But she hadn’t given her mother the whole story. The baby’s father and Ruth-Ann’s boyfriend, had developed an aggressive temperament since learning of the pregnancy. Determined to have an in-tact family because she experienced a fatherless childhood herself, she navigated his unpredictability as best she could, thinking it was in her baby’s best interest. In the sidelines was Smith, who met Ruth-Ann each week virtually, because of the COVID-19 crisis, to review everything an expectant mother needs to know from the facts about pregnancy and childbirth to stress management and life skills strategies. “We had an instant connection,” Ruth-Ann said, “I immediately felt accepted without any judgement. I could ask her the most embarrassing questions and never felt ashamed or scared. It was exactly what I had been looking for but didn’t know I needed. Every expectant mom should have what I have with Melissa.”

A Rare Genetic Clotting Disorder

During these visits, Smith unearthed a concerning piece of family medical history that resulted in the death of Ruth-Ann’s sister one week after she gave birth. Protein S deficiency is a rare genetic clotting disorder that can result in life-threatening blood clots like the one that took her sister’s life. Ruth-Ann’s prenatal physician, who is not associated with RVNAhealth or Nurse Family Partnership, refused to test her blood levels for Protein S deficiency despite her complaints of excessive fatigue and family history. Smith “empowered me to fight for it,” Ruth-Ann said, “and thank God she did, because that blood test probably saved my life. My voice was quieter before and Melissa helped me amplify it. I wouldn’t have the voice I do now without her.”

In fall 2020, Ruth-Ann delivered a full-term healthy baby girl and soon thereafter confided in Smith about her safety concerns given her partner’s increasing volatility. Smith connected Ruth-Ann with resources specializing in interpersonal violence and in early December she moved back in with mother full-time under a court-issued protective order. “I stayed longer than I should have just so my daughter could be around her dad,” Ruth-Ann said, “but Melissa reminded me that a father doesn’t have to be biological and blood doesn’t make a family.”

“I don’t need to be perfect and it’s okay not to have the answers to things but can be dangerous not to ask questions.”

Today, Ruth-Ann is juggling motherhood of an intelligent, radiant, one-year-old with mischief in her eyes and apple cheeks with a full college course load as she pursues a degree in social work so she can “make life better for others and connect with a wide range of people on a variety of social issues.” A newly elected cabinet member with the Office of Early Childhood, the state agency that funds Nurse Family Partnership, Ruth-Ann was one of 15 chosen in a pool of over 70 applicants to develop solutions for issues facing parents and families statewide. In her spare time, Ruth-Ann is an advocate for RVNAhealth and the Nurse Family Partnership that she attributes to giving her the support and tools to transform her life. She cautions those who are intimidated by the word nurse in the program title because nurses traditionally focus on medical care whereas the NFP nurses help their clients navigate every tentacle associated with new motherhood. “Melissa is my mentor,” Ruth-Ann said, “she’s walked beside me on this entire journey. She reminded me that I don’t need to be perfect and it’s okay not to have the answers to things but can be dangerous not to ask questions.” As for her daughter, the reason she and Smith were brought together, Ruth-Ann says “she’s a mini me…a determined thinker and very curious. She loves books and can express
herself well already. She has a strong voice.”

Just like her mother.

To hear and learn more from Ruth about her RVNAhealth Nurse Family Partnership experience, watch this video

Ridgefield’s Nurse-Family Partnership program builds lasting connections with mothers

Ridgefield Press | Author: Kaitlin Lyle | September 7, 2022


For new mom and Danbury resident Marcia Valdes, a local program for first-time mothers and their babies has provided an invaluable support system.

Nurse-Family Partnership program has been around for about 40 years – starting in Colorado and making its way to western Connecticut two years ago.

“I love it,” Valdes said of the program. “It’s great because as a first-time mom, you have a lot of questions. You’re always concerned … things change because your life’s changed.”

RVNAhealth enrolled its first client for the program in March 2020, just a week before everything closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After offering virtual visits during COVID-19, the program is back to doing home visits but continues to offer virtual visits as an option.

Jennifer Taborda, a registered nurse with RVNAhealth, said the program, funded by the state’s Office of Early Childhood, is completely free and voluntary for families.

The program enrolls expecting mothers at 29 weeks or less of pregnancy and the nurses stay with the families until their baby is 2 years old.

Throughout the program, Taborda said the nurses build long-term relationships with the mothers and watch their babies grow. Once the babies turn 2 years old, she said they have graduation ceremonies for the babies.

During their involvement with the program, families are provided with education, support and connections to resources for services like housing, food, and counseling.

Additionally, Taborda said the program’s nurses conduct health, growth and development screenings for the babies and provide education and resources for children, including services that provide early intervention for children that are behind in their development.

“I would say as a first-time mom, having a free program like this is huge,” Taborda said. “Having support, having education – especially for some of our moms who don’t understand what’s happening to their body during pregnancy.”

Taborda said the mothers are educated on what to expect during labor and the risks that could occur. A lot of the time, she said, the mothers don’t have the understanding of what’s going on with their bodies; there are some mothers that didn’t have parents that engaged and played with them. Understanding that it’s okay to get down on the floor and play with one’s child, Taborda said, is educational for both the mothers and their children.

Taborda said the program has helped mothers get their college applications started and set goals for themselves. She said the program strives to set its families up for lifelong success – both for the families and the children – and to make sure they understand the importance of health visits for their children and self care for themselves.

RVNAhealth Director of Community Health and Wellness and Nurse Family Partnership Program Administrator Laura Shulman Cordeira said first-time mothers benefit from the program, in that they’re more likely to have full-term babies and less likely to have low birth weight babies.

Other benefits are mothers are more likely to initiate breastfeeding; attend their prenatal and postpartum appointments; bring their children to their pediatric appointments during their first year of life; set goals for themselves and become more self-sufficient economically.

Through the program, Cordeira said children are less likely to be in the hospital during their first two years of life as a result of an accidental injury; they’re also less likely to have behavioral or intellectual problems at age 6.

Additionally, she said the children involved in the program are less likely to be in any sort of juvenile detention system.

“I mean, it’s really incredible how long-lasting these results can be,” Cordeira said.

Though she’s been a nurse for nine years, Taborda said her work with the Nurse-Family Partnership program is “the first job I feel very connected with and definitely get a sense of fulfillment.”

As a member of a “small, but mighty” team of nurses with the Nurse-Family Partnership program, Taborda is a personal nurse for first-time mothers in Region 5 of Connecticut, which includes the Northwest Corner, Waterbury, Danbury, New Milford, New Hartford and Torrington.

Out of the 37 families enrolled in the Nurse-Family Partnership program, Taborda works with 21 clients – one of whom is Valdes and her 9-month-old son, Anthony.

Valdes was 17 weeks pregnant when she was advised to call the Nurse-Family Partnership program. She said she texted Taborda, who texted back to explain how the program works. They set up a Facetime call to see how things might work and their relationship grew from there.

During her pregnancy, Valdes said she was concerned about her weight, so Taborda gave her a book to help with her nutrition. Now, every other week, Taborda comes to Valdes’ house to visit her and baby Anthony — sometimes bringing formula, diapers, wipes, creams, toys and books and sitting down to play with Anthony while she and Valdes talk.

Among some of her own questions, Valdes said she was concerned when Anthony was between 4 and 6 months and hadn’t yet rolled over. She was also concerned about his sleep because Anthony “was never a good sleeper.”

Opening up about her experiences as a first-time mother, Valdes said her favorite moment is nursing: “It’s challenging, but it’s the moment you have your baby and he needs you and that moment is just the both of you and it’s amazing.”

Reflecting on how she’d encourage others to enroll in the program, Taborda said, “I was a teen mother myself. If I had this program, it would’ve changed my life. There’s so much to learn. The support is just fantastic. … When our moms leave our program, they’re able to advocate for themselves and they’re going to be okay.”

In the Words of Our Patients and Loved Ones…

On November 13th, we will celebrate Caregiver Appreciation Day. What a better way to celebrate the talents and dedication of our amazing StayingWELL caregivers than by sharing a testimonial from one of our families…

“It is 9:30pm on Wednesday night, and I am home after meeting my mother-in-law’s night aide at 8pm. Danielle Taibi had stopped by her unit earlier, but I was unable to be there for that. My mother-in-law and her daughter, were raving about Danielle. They thought she was so helpful, knowledgeable, and understanding. Then Shannece S. came at 8pm and she had such a warm and lovely disposition. She turned to me and said, “go home and go to sleep”. It was the best thing someone said to me all week!

Client family member, Jodi Stewart

Caregiving is often described as a labor of love for those providing care for a family member or friend. When the decision is made to bring in RVNAhealth’s StayingWELL caregiving team to help, we know how important it is to understand the needs of both our clients AND their loved ones. Rest is one of those needs that are essential to the health and well-being of familial caregivers. Our caregiving teams work every day to provide outstanding care and service to our clients along with empathy and assurance to loved ones.  “Go home and go to sleep” is a simple but meaningful phrase that will resonate for those that understand the labor of love that is caregiving. Thank you Shannece and Danielle for demonstrating the best of RVNAhealth caregiving! And thank you to all of our StayingWELL caregiving team — you remind us every day, through moments like the above, the impact and meaningfulness of our work!

RVNAhealth’s StayingWELL services provide hourly and live-in personal caregivers to assist individuals with maintaining independence and living safely wherever they reside. If you would like more information please contact us at 203.438.5555 or visit our website.

In the Words of our Patients and Loved Ones

Did you know RVNAhealth’s Rehabilitation & Wellness Center in Ridgefield offers monthly memberships to use the facility for ongoing personal strength and fitness conditioning, following rehabilitation services with us? Ideal for past patients looking for accountability from supportive staff or those who like the idea of exercising in a facility surrounded by rehabilitation and conditioning experts – the Ridgefield facility offers a great way to stay in shape!

Mrs. Morrisroe works on her balance exercises.

But don’t take our word for it. Meet Mrs. Mary Morrisroe — one of our most loyal wellness program members at RVNAhealth’s Rehabilitation & Wellness Center. Though she is not there for rehabilitation therapy – not anymore! Mrs. Morrisroe comes to our center regularly as a wellness program client so she can work on continued strength and fitness.

After experiencing a leg fracture, Mrs. Morrisroe received RVNAhealth home nursing services to help her recover, followed by outpatient therapy at our Ridgefield center. “After my recovery program at home with RVNAhealth visiting nurses, I continued with their outpatient rehabilitation. Then at the end of that, I went right into their wellness program, and I am still there! I have a schedule so I know when I can go in and I do the fitness program that they designed just for me. It has helped me to physically keep going and do everything. And I like knowing that there are professionals there that can make sure I’m doing exercises correctly if I need help. I would not go without the wellness program. It really has made such a difference and I recommend it to all my friends!”

Thank you, Mrs. Morrisroe, for your kind words and we are proud of your dedication to your health and wellness!  For information on RVNAhealth’s Rehabilitation & Wellness Center and programs, please contact us 203.438.7862 or visit rvnahealth.org/rehab.


In the Words of our Patients and Loved Ones…

When over 95% of people using our Rehabilitation & Wellness Center say they would highly recommend outpatient therapy at our Ridgefield office locations, we nod and smile in acknowledgement of the tremendous efforts put forth by our rehabilitation team.

In recognition of our therapists and office staff, we proudly share a few words provided by recent patients about their experiences with us.

  • “Everyone was very friendly and knowledgeable, which made me feel very comfortable in understanding the treatment for my injury.” – Alex L., Ridgefield
  • “Elaine is excellent and communicates clearly what needs to be done between visits.” – Anonymous
  • “Professional – from workup to discharge. Constant checking on progress with exercises, adding new ones. Encouraging, friendly. Jeff was great! Staff friendly. A great experience.” – Myrna S., South Salem
  • “Therapists were very easy to work with and willing to try new approaches.” – Anonymous
  • “Kristine and Jeff were great. Enjoyed working with them. Peggy at the front desk was very sweet. They were all great. I looked forward to coming. They worked their schedule around me. Friendly and very helpful.” – Victoria L., Ridgefield
  • “Sarah did a great job. Cannot Improve!” – Anonymous
  • “Ever want to peel back the onion on how you run? I HIGHLY recommend the Running Evaluation at RVNAhealth…Kate is AMAZING. – Anonymous
  • “RVNAhealth has been a top notch therapy program to me. Susan, Sarah and Kristine have been great in my recovery. Always enthusiastic and positive. Provided great exercises to do at home and follow up at appointments.” – Lisa L., New Fairfield

Thank you to all of our patients for sharing your feedback! RVNAhealth’s Rehabilitation & Wellness Center specialties include physical, occupational, speech, and vestibular therapies, orthopedic programs for joint replacement recovery, balance and falls prevention, LSVT BIG & LOUD, and sports injury rehabilitation.  Additionally, the Center also offers running assessments, custom orthotics, and other personalized fitness services. For more information, contact us at 203.438.7862 or click here to learn more about us.

In the Words of our Patients and Loved Ones…

Patient Testimonial for Vicky Clifford

I am writing to express my appreciation for the excellent service I have received from Victoria Clifford, [OTR, CDP, RVNAhealth Occupational Therapist] during my recovery from spinal surgeries.

Ms. Clifford strikes the optimal balance of professionalism and compassion. She has been invaluable to me by teaching me multiple techniques for safe and effective self care, including but not limited to development of self reliance regarding showering and dressing. She has surveyed every aspect of my life and given me wise counsel for improving my safety and quality of life. She has helped me to acquire essential tools for fulfilling that counsel.

Ms. Clifford is a born teacher. She explains unfamiliar matters with clarity, thoroughness, and patience. She held me accountable but did so with understanding and compassion.

In sum, she has surpassed her duty and exceeded my expectations. Thanks so much for providing her services to me. She has been instrumental in my successful recovery.

Thanks again,
Richard H. Greenwood

Family Testimonial for Vicky Clifford

From Gigi Weiss, MPT, Director of Rehabilitation Services: “I just got off the most pleasant phone call with the son of one of our patients. He said Vicky was one of the nicest, most intelligent, and professional people that he has ever met in healthcare. She was so patient and tolerant with his mother. He also said if Vicky ‘were a ball player she would be batting 1000.’ These kind words were passed along because he knows how hard everyone works in healthcare and it is not easy.”

Thank you Vicky for your tremendous care and efforts!  And thank you to our patients and families for your appreciation of, and trust in our care.

Gen Fagan is Back in Action!

It was April 2021 and things were looking up. Spring was on the horizon, and COVID-19 vaccines were beginning to take hold, bringing hope for a return to life as we formerly knew it. But for Genevieve Fagan, known fondly as Gen, life took an unfair turn. Continue reading