Friend helps friend cope with coronavirus outbreak

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UNION, NJ — The friendship between two young women is proving to have a big impact during this time of need and service. Front-line workers who have had to work during the coronavirus outbreak, especially doctors and nurses who work in hospitals, are receiving enormous amounts of love and support from their communities. But what Alyssa Inghilleri did for her friend, Alyiah Melton, will forever be a testament to their strong friendship.

“Alyiah and I have been friends for 15 years, since elementary school,” Inghilleri told LocalSource on April 25. “We also were varsity cheerleading captains at Union High School together.”

Melton is currently a registered nurse at Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth and a front-line worker during the coronavirus pandemic; Inghilleri saw how hard a time her friend was having and wanted to help out the best way she knew how, by donating food.

“Alyiah and I have been keeping in touch throughout this whole thing and I really just wanted to do something to say thank you and make her and her co-workers’ stressful day a little better. I figured there’s no better way than with good food,” she said. “My heart really goes out to all the health care workers. They are really holding the country on their shoulders, so showing appreciation for them in any small way is the least we could do.”

Inghilleri’s mother, Patty Inghilleri, who went to Union High School with Melton’s parents, is the owner of Cafe Z, an Italian restaurant in Union; she and her daughter were able to donate food from Cafe Z to Melton and her co-workers at the hospital.

“Recently, Alyssa mentioned to me that Alyiah had been working a lot and was under a lot of stress,” Patty Inghilleri said on April 24. “Alyssa thought it would be nice if she could make her sandwiches and then send them to her and her co-workers. Alyssa wanted healthy options, so we came in early to the restaurant with Jeison, the chef, and we made paninis, sandwiches and wraps for her and her co-workers. She even wanted to pay me because she said it is a hard time for the restaurant.”

Looking back on what she did for Melton, Alyssa Inghilleri reiterated that their friendship is important.

“Our friendship is very important to me,” Alyssa Inghilleri said. “She’s a friend that I know I’ll always have. We don’t have to talk every single day or even see each other all the time, but we both know what it is and I appreciate the friendship a lot.

“It makes me scared for her and sad that her first year of nursing has to be difficult, but, at the same time, I can’t think of a better person to handle that type of stress. It makes me feel really proud to be her friend,” she continued. “She will be training to work in the ICU soon, and it’s not the ideal time to take on a position like that, but I also know that this will only make her a better nurse and stronger in the long run.”

Melton said she is grateful to her friend for thinking of her during these difficult times.

“Alyssa and I became friends in first grade at Battle Hill Elementary School,” Melton said on April 26. “Over the years, we went to different schools and ended up losing close contact, until we really reunited in high school. During our junior year of high school, we were both chosen to become captains of our cheerleading team. This was a major accomplishment for underclassmen. Fortunately, our coaches saw the leaders in us early on in our high school careers.”

Having been a registered nurse for approximately a year and a half, Melton has been practicing as a telemetry/cardiac medicine nurse. Nurses in this field are in high demand, especially during these crucial times.

“Alyssa donating lunch to my unit during this pandemic almost brought me to tears,” Melton said. “During this time, nurses and other members on the front line are so busy attending to the pandemic and caring for the high influx of patients that are being admitted to the hospital, that we haven’t had time to prepare for a lunch to bring to work. The lunch that Cafe Z donated to my unit assured me that we have a community of people behind us, who support us. We are all in this together.”

Even though the pandemic has presented grim results, Alyssa Inghilleri is hopeful that people will come out of this being more appreciative.

“I have mixed feelings about the coronavirus pandemic,” she said. “I’m worried about my family and friends who are at a higher risk and sad that I can’t see or hug loved ones. However, I know that this will pass, and I have faith that good will come out of it in the end. I think everyone will appreciate life, their health and people a lot more.”

Thinking back to how tough this experience has been so far, Melton said she’s just doing her part.

“This pandemic has definitely been a challenge, but I work with an amazing team of nurses and physicians,” Melton said. “We’re all dedicated to the cause and will keep pushing to heal one patient at a time. I’m just trying to do my part. During this time of chaos and uncertainty, I want to be able to give help where help is needed. It definitely has not been easy, but I am hopeful.”