Because of Patients’ Fears, She Brought Treatment to Them
This is the second in a special series of Einstein Untold profiles in celebration of Women’s History Month. The featured women are innovators. They pursue unlikely dreams. They’re stand-outs with spirit and strength and stand-ins for all the women of Einstein Healthcare Network.
A bone fracture for an elderly patient can be a catastrophic turning point. It can begin a downward spiral that can lead to permanent disability – or worse.
That’s why Maria Meirzon was worried. Many of the patients she sees as a nurse navigator for the Department of Endocrinology at Einstein Healthcare Network have osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become brittle and weak.
The patients are mostly older and fragile and subject to falls. Many have appointments every six months for bone-strengthening injections to prevent fractures.
But when COVID-19 struck, the offices where Meirzon works – at Einstein Center One and Einstein Holmesburg Outpatient Center – shut down for a time. What would happen to the dozens of patients who were scheduled for their injections?
“The medication only works for six months,” Meirzon says. “They could get a fracture if they fell, at any minute. At age 80, if you fall and get a hip fracture, you’ll most probably never be able to walk again. We didn’t know what to do.”
Mobile Medicine: At Home or Curbside
Then Meirzon got an idea. She’d spent many years as a home care nurse. Why not do that again? If the patients couldn’t get to the medicine, she’d take the medicine to them.
Understanding the COVID exposure risk she faced, Meirzon volunteered to visit the patients at home to give them their injections.
She did more than 60 home visits to give injections to homebound patients, many of whom live in assisted living facilities. She sometimes traveled 40 minutes away to see a patient. “I did it on my own time,” Meirzon says. “I still had to do everything else. So I donated some of my time.”
Did she fear contracting COVID while out in the community? “I wasn’t concerned for myself because, thank God, I don’t have any pre-existing conditions,” Meirzon says.
For the patients who were too concerned about the pandemic to let Meirzon in their homes, Meirzon devised another creative solution. She arranged curbside service. Patients are driven to the office by a friend or family member, and Meirzon meets them at the car to give the injection.
Home visits were halted at the end of February now that the offices are fully open. But the drive-through option continues for patients who are still reluctant to come into the office. The patients do telehealth doctor visits and get their injections in their cars.
From Russia to Israel to Einstein
Meirzon has a history of taking bold steps – for herself as well as for her patients. She was born in Russia and, repelled by the repression, moved to Israel with her mother in 1990. “I just wanted some freedom,” she says about leaving Russia.
She got her degree at Tel Aviv University and began her nursing career as a cardiac care nurse. Meirzon married, had two children, and eventually decided to move to the United States to escape the ever-present possibility of war.
“Israel is surrounded on all sides,” she says. The hospital where she worked had five underground floors for patient care in case Tel Aviv was bombed. “It felt like at any time, a war could start.”
She and her family emigrated to the relative peace of the United States in 2004. She had a third child and eventually came to Einstein.
Meirzon was awarded Einstein’s Martin Luther King Keeper of the Dream award this year for her dedication and commitment to the community. She was nominated by supervisors in both of the offices where she handles appointment scheduling, patient education, medication administration and medical authorization from insurance companies. She does it all “with a smile on her face,” the nomination says.
“I love this country very much, and I’m trying to do my part for the community wherever I can,” Meirzon says. “I was really happy that I could help.”