Only a yr after being adopted from China by a New Jersey couple, Zoe Marziano suffered a extreme mind harm at age 2 that has pressured her to reside in a long-term care facility for almost twenty years. 

Regardless of not with the ability to converse, stroll, see clearly or have full use of her arms and palms, Zoe has nonetheless lived a full life, going to high school every day and spending weekends together with her dad and mom at their dwelling.


However COVID-19 took all that away.

The New Jersey Well being Division’s order in March to lock down nursing houses to curb the virus’s unfold among the many aged additionally utilized to the 4 long-term care amenities for kids in New Jersey, together with one in Toms River the place Zoe and two dozen different kids reside. 

Mother and father just like the Marzianos haven’t seen their severely disabled kids face-to-face in additional than 100 days, which some specialists say might have an enduring traumatic impression on the kids.

“We complain about all of the issues we misplaced with COVID-19, however it’s nothing in comparison with what she misplaced,” stated Kimberly Paterson, Zoe’s mom. “Her life has been turned the other way up and there would not appear to be an finish in sight.”


Whereas the virus has ravaged nursing houses, resulting in 6,500 resident deaths, there have been solely 4 circumstances and no deaths on the 4 long-term care amenities for kids within the state, based on Well being Division information. 

The restrictions have actually saved lives, however Kimberly and her husband Fred fear concerning the toll that the coverage has taken on Zoe, who in some ways nonetheless has the psychological and emotional capability of a kid regardless that she is a younger lady.

Zoe has by no means been extra remoted than she has been up to now 4 months. Faculty days shrank from six hours off-site to about 40 minutes on-line every day. Meals are in her bed room as an alternative of the eating room. All outings have ceased. In-person visits have been changed by video conferences. 


“She was by no means a crier however once we’re saying our goodbyes on Skype I can see her chin quivering,” Kimberly stated. “That is new.”

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Gov Phil Murphy has begun to loosen some restrictions in any respect long-term care amenities, permitting out of doors visits the place guests and residents are at the least six ft aside, masked and supervised by facility workers.


However Well being Commissioner Judy Persichilli stated final week they don’t seem to be seeking to make visitation any extra lenient at kids’s amenities — regardless that the virus has had a minimal impression there.

That leaves Kimberly and Fred few choices to reconnect with their daughter, who they fought so arduous to undertake and look after. “You possibly can’t maintain somebody in a jail in the event that they have not completed one thing incorrect,” Kimberly stated. 

A fiercely unbiased toddler

Kimberly and Fred by no means deliberate on having kids of their very own since Fred had kids from a previous marriage. However greater than 20 years in the past they have been bowled over by tales on the plight of Chinese language orphans, particularly the excessive variety of ladies thought of much less fascinating than a son regardless of some reforms underneath the nation’s one-child coverage on the time.


Thus started an 18-month course of working with adoption businesses on two continents that may finally result in Zoe, who had been left as a Four-month-old on the steps of a police station in Anhui province.

Kimberly and Fred traveled to Anhui in late 1999 the place they met this “fiercely unbiased” toddler that they had solely seen in images. It was probably the greatest moments of their lives.

“Once they put Zoe in my arms, there was this instant feeling that that’s my child,” Kimberly stated. “And I didn’t wish to ever let her go.”


Zoe tailored to her new household and new nation fairly rapidly. Her independence was on full show throughout play dates when she would wander round whereas different toddlers remained latched to their dad and mom’ legs. Her eyes, although, at all times wandered again to Kimberly and Fred.

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Zoe was hitting all of the toddler milestones, from strolling and consuming strong meals to talking and even slicing pancakes with a knife and fork. 


In February 2000, Zoe developed a fever, however it by no means rose to an alarming stage. She had vomited a bit and was being given Pedialyte. When Kimberly went to examine on her in mattress, Zoe wasn’t shifting. She tried shaking her awake however Zoe remained immobile.

On the emergency room, the couple have been initially advised that Zoe was dehydrated. However they quickly realized it was a lot worse. Zoe was affected by ketotic hypoglycemia. Her blood sugar ranges had plummeted and she or he was in a coma. A physician stated Zoe had a 50% probability of creating it by the primary night time.

She did. However not with out devastating penalties. 


“In case you noticed her MRI there was all this grey space on her mind,” Kimberly stated. “She had an enormous quantity of mind injury.”

She was despatched to a rehab facility however obtained little of her former talents again. Alongside together with her bodily limitations, Zoe has recurring seizures and her eyesight was so poor that she is taken into account cortically blind.

Even after she went to Kids’s Specialised Hospital’s long-term care middle in Toms River, Kimberly and Fred held out hope that Zoe would finally come dwelling. 


They even had an elevator constructed of their dwelling. However as time handed, the couple realized they couldn’t present the type of care Zoe obtained on the long-term care facility, even with round the clock dwelling aides.

Discovering a haven

A routine started that may final for years.

Kimberly and Fred visited Zoe a number of instances every week. They might carry her to their Sea Girt dwelling on the weekends the place the elevator got here in useful.


Zoe went to high school off-site nearly every single day of the yr — a mix of teachers and remedy. Zoe made associates. She adored her lecturers and aides. And there have been at all times social actions galore — or as Kimberly stated laughing, “There’s by no means a vacation they don’t have a good time.”

Kimberly and Fred have been proud of the house and thought it solely obtained higher by the years as Zoe matured.

“Don’t suppose as a result of she’s in a wheelchair and doesn’t discuss that she’s a vegetable,” Kimberly stated. “She is sharp. She has emotions. She simply communicates it with extreme limitations.” 

Kimberly and Fred purchased Phoebe, a skilled remedy canine that Zoe instantly fell in love with. She visited the house typically.


On March eight, the Marzianos took Zoe to the Freehold Mall to select a promenade costume for the dance her faculty was throwing later within the spring. Once they dropped her off that night, they did not notice it could be the final time they might get to hug her.

Every week later, the state would bar guests to all long-term care amenities as COVID-19 started to be detected in nursing houses throughout the state. 

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At first, the separation did not appear all that dangerous. “We thought it could final a few weeks,” Kimberly stated. “We will take care of something for less than two weeks.”

However the week changed into a month and a month into a number of months. 

Zoe needed to transfer to a different bed room to be quarantined from the 2 contaminated kids within the 26-bed dwelling. The transfer was an emotional jolt contemplating Zoe had been in the identical bed room for years. 


Zoe spent extra time within the bed room than she ever had. A curtain was drawn round her mattress within the room shared with three different residents, additional isolating her. “It is an unbelievably small area,” Kimberly stated. “Jail cells are greater.”

Zoe’s faculty closed and as an alternative of a six-hour day, she was given 30 to 40 minutes of on-line studying with the assistance of an aide.

Kimberly may now not do Zoe’s laundry and convey her meals as she had completed for years. 


The house’s workers wore face masks, making it tough for Zoe to select up non-verbal cues the way in which sheused to.

Zoe started watching hours and hours of TV — one thing that she as soon as cherished however grew extraordinarily uninterested in.

The toughest a part of the final three months has been the absence of her dad and mom. Kimberly and Fred started to video convention with Zoe a number of instances every week. She used a brand new digital system that claims phrases primarily based on eye instructions. 


Some have been heartbreaking.

Zoe would repeat “I miss you” and “I really like you” and “I wish to hug you” again and again when a Skype name was wrapping up. 

Regardless of the hardship of being aside, Kimberly and Fred are fast to reward the ability’s workers and administration for the care and safety they offer their daughter.


“They’ve bent over backwards protecting the kids protected,” Kimberly stated. “They did what plenty of nursing houses didn’t do.” 


There have been a number of moments of pleasure — together with the time Zoe’s lecturers went for a window go to. The house’s workers dressed Zoe in a home made cap and robe manufactured from paper, and performed “Pomp and Circumstance” to mark her commencement.

The workers helped her draw a Father’s Day card for Fred. Zoe was proud when she confirmed it to him on a Skype name and commanded her digital system to say: “I made this for you!”

Kimberly and Fred have visited Zoe by a window each week, however say it confuses her.


“She would not perceive why her mother and pa gained’t come into her dwelling,” Kimberly stated. “We’ll do them as a result of we would like her to know that we haven’t forgotten her. If that’s the one factor we get out of it, it’s price it.”

Psychological well being vs. bodily well being

Regardless of the dearth of deaths from COVID-19, kids’s amenities are actually not resistant to a devastating virus. The worst pediatric viral outbreak in latest reminiscence killed 11 children on ventilators in late 2018 on the former Wanaque Heart for Nursing and Rehabilitation.

With Wanaque nonetheless recent, Persichilli stated final week there have been no plans to make visitation insurance policies extra lenient for kids’s amenities when requested by the USA As we speak Community New Jersey.


“The overall pointers that we put out apply to all,” she stated. “I do know the visitation is considerably restricted. We’re engaged on reopening steering. We’ll work with the stakeholders with that however it’s not prepared and albeit, the organizations usually are not prepared both.”

State officers are in a tough place between permitting extra household contact and protecting COVID-19 at bay in these houses, stated Gerard Costa, director of the Heart for Autism and Early Childhood Psychological Well being at Montclair State College.

The customer’s restrictions might properly have saved kids’s lives. However Costa stated they need to take into account loosening visitation necessities to restrict the trauma already suffered by kids like Zoe.


“Psychological well being must be on the identical stage as bodily well being,” he stated. “The lack of routine could be very painful, particularly when time with household is taken away. It is a core want. It is as necessary as medicine or bodily and occupational remedy.”

Megan Granozio, a spokeswoman for Kids’s Specialised Hospital, stated the house will start providing out of doors visits on Thursday.

Identical to window visits, Kimberly and Fred concern these the socially-distant visits will possible be complicated to Zoe.


“Touching and listening to and smelling are so necessary, particularly to a severely disabled baby whose different senses are impaired,” Costa stated. 

Kimberly thinks Murphy and Persichelli’s directive is “one-size suits all if you’re coping with people and amenities which have had a lot completely different outcomes.”

RWJ Barnabas Kids’s Hospital in Mountainside allows parents in-person visits with their children, however Barnabas is barred by state rules from doing soat its long-term care facility for kids.


“I don’t see why that coverage is allowed on the hospital and never on the dwelling,” Kimberly stated. 

What Kimberly longs for is one thing easy — like their previous routine of going to Barnes and Noble in Brick Township, studying a guide to Zoe and feeding her a cupcake from the shop’s cafe.

However amid COVID-19, she’ll accept simply holding her daughter’s hand as soon as once more.


COVID-19 impression at kids’s amenities

  • Kids’s Specialised Hospital, Mountainside: 2 circumstances, zero deaths.
  • Kids’s Specialised Hospital, Toms River: 2 circumstances, zero deaths.
  • Phoenix Heart for Rehabilitation and Pediatrics (pediatric wing):  zero circumstances.
  • Voorhees Pediatric: zero circumstances.

Employees Author Stacey Barchenger contributed to this text.

Scott Fallon covers the atmosphere for To get limitless entry to the most recent information about how New Jersey’s atmosphere impacts your well being and well-being,  please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Electronic mail: Twitter: @newsfallon 


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