STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - To say Carole Ocera was proud of her home borough of Brooklyn is an understatement.

She raised two boys there. Her family jokingly said they had to drag her out of the borough in 2016 when she moved to Island Shores, an assisted living facility on Staten Island.

"She was born in Brooklyn. She was raised in Brooklyn. She was pro-Brooklyn. She loved Brooklyn," said Charlie Ocera, Carole's son.

Carole was known as a tough cookie but very social and she would never miss the monthly Elvis impersonator performance.

"And if you called her that day when he was there, and it was the same guy every month, it was a Friday. And if you called her that day she would say I can't talk. Elvis is here," recalled Dorothy Ocera, Carole's daughter-in-law.

But on April 5 Charlie and Dorothy, who live in Florida, got the call they feared. One of the other residents who Carole shared an aid with tested positive for COVID-19. Soon after, Carole developed severe symptoms and despite tremendous apprehension they called an ambulance.

"Being so far away from your loved one and going through this nightmare that you can't get there and she is alone. She has no one," said Dorothy Ocera.

She was checked into Staten Island University Hospital and confirmed to have coronavirus. Over the course of several days she developed complications and ultimately had to be sedated and intubated. 

So from thousands of miles away Dorothy asked the nurses for help.

"It is so hard to be so far away and to not be able to see them nevermind touch them," she said.

After six days in the hospital it became clear the virus was too much for Carole. That's when nurse Alexa Zuffante suited up and held up the phone so her family could say their final goodbyes.

"I started crying. I said do me a favor. Can you hold her hand? She is so afraid of being alone," Dorothy Ocera recalled.

"It just broke my heart. She asked that one wish of Carole's was that she didn't want to die alone so they just asked that I held her hand. And of course it wasn't even a question," Zuffante said.

With Elvis music playing in the background the Ocera's and Zuffante cried as the family shared one last moment of love. 

"I wanted to kiss her and she held the phone to her face so I could kiss her," said Dorothy Ocera.

Her fear of being alone was never realized because she had nurse Zuffante there holding her hand.


"In that moment it just felt so real," said Zuffante. "This is what we have come down to and I don't know if any of us will be the same after this." 

Weeks later, Zuffante and the Oceras still text, checking in on one another. They plan on meeting in person when this is all over saying they are now forever bonded.